Belfast Telegraph

Dublin parliament besieged by thousands angry at water charges

Dublin: Tens of thousands of people have thronged around the Irish parliament to protest at imminent water charges, the latest austerity levy imposed since a spectacular economic crash seven years ago.

Despite the biting cold winter weather, and forecast high winds, protesters arrived from all over the country for a national day of demonstration outside Leinster House.

Right2Water, an umbrella group of trade unions and left-leaning political parties which organised the rally, claimed that the crowd, which streamed down two sides of Merrion Square, numbered up to 100,000 at one stage.

The Garda said that the official figure was "in excess of 30,000". There were two arrests for public order offences, close to where the Kildare Street entrance to Leinster House was barricaded.

Missiles were fired at the Garda during skirmishes at one of the barriers sealing off a number of streets around the parliament amid a heavy security presence in the city centre.

But with musicians, singers, activists and politicians entertaining and addressing the rally from a main stage, the demonstration was overwhelmingly peaceful and good-natured.

Oscar-winning singer-songwriter Glen Hansard was among a number of celebrities who turned up. "I think there's something happening in the world, and I feel this is our version of it," he said.

"The water charge is the straw that's breaking our backs - people are essentially very dissatisfied with how we are being governed."

Originally, the government had signalled the water levy would be up to €600 (£474) a year for some families.

But mounting dissent and increasingly rowdy protests targeting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and senior ministers during public events forced a U-turn.

Householders will now be liable for charges of €60 (£47) for single adult homes and €160 euro (£126) for all other homes, a flat rate which has been set for four years. Critics claim it is a tax too much, does not encourage conservation and is unfair.

Teenager shot by Pakistan Taliban shares Nobel Peace Prize

Norway: Education campaigner Malala Yousafzai has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The 17-year-old is the youngest person to receive the honour.

She was handed a gold medal and diploma at a ceremony in Oslo, joining the ranks of laureates including Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Aung San Suu Kyi. She began speaking out for the rights of girls at the age of 11 and came to prominence after surviving being shot in the head in 2012 when her calls for rights angered the Taliban in Pakistan.

The teenager was jointly awarded the peace prize with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi for her “heroic struggle” in favour of girls’ education.

Immigration ‘has marginal impact’

Westminster: The issue of immigration is “not very important” economically and there is “masses of space” in Britain, a senior official from the Government fiscal watchdog has suggested.

Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) board member Stephen Nickell told MPs the overall impact was marginal and the NHS would be in “dire straits” without migrant staff.

Although the public was concerned about numbers, only 10% of the country was urbanised, he argued.

The comments, on an issue set to be a key general election battlground, came as Mr Nickell gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee.

Asked for his views on the impact of immigration on wage inflation, Mr Nickell said that new arrivals had held down unskilled wages “to some extent”. But, he added,  “over the next 10 years or so, the general consensus is that for the native population, the existing population, while immigration may be a little bit good, it may be a little bit bad economically.

“But there isn’t overall that much in it.”

Prosecutors appeal Pistorius verdict

South Africa: Oscar Pistorius again faces the possibility of a murder conviction after a judge ruled that prosecutors can appeal against his conviction on the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

The sensational case will go to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which will review the murder trial.

The double-amputee Olympian fatally shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through the closed door of a toilet cubicle on Valentine’s Day last year.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, who convicted him and sentenced him to five years in jail, acknowledged that chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel had raised legitimate “questions of law” that should be studied by the appeals court.

“This might have a practical effect” on the conviction, she said.

Pistorius’ family said: “We note the finding of the court and abide by the ruling.”

He could face a minimum of 15 years in prison if the appeals court overturns the culpable homicide conviction and raises it to a murder conviction.

Under his current sentence, Pistorius could be released from prison and placed under house arrest after serving 10 months, or one-sixth of his sentence.

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