THE ‘Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay’ movement that saw off plans to introduce water charges has paid tribute to Donegal campaigner Catherine Shaw following her death.
Thomas McGrath, spokesperson for Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay (CPWP), described the Lifford woman as “a leader” while Independent Councillor Micheál Choilm Mac Giolla Easbuig said she was an “inspiration”.
“Catherine attended the earliest public meeting of CPWP in Letterkenny in October 2012 and straight after set to work organising in the Lifford/St Johnston area, roping in family and friends,” Cllr Mac Giolla Easbuig recalled.
“She proved to be a capable and resourceful organiser and within weeks had packed out Maggie’s Bar in the first public meeting in the area. The mood of the meeting was very uncompromising with strong and enthusiastic support for the non-payment message. It gave a huge lift to the campaign and inspired others to go off and organise similar meetings in surrounding areas. Catherine continued to organise meetings and distribute CPWP newsletters in the locality to keep up morale and encourage people not to pay, despite the barrage of negative publicity from the national media in particular.”
Two months after that initial meeting, hundreds of people descended on a meeting of Donegal County Council.
Afterwards Mrs Shaw gave her first public address, telling those gathered why she had got involved in the campaign.
She said that while the charges would not affect her so much, her real concern was for the next generation.
“Catherine would continue to be involved all the way through as a member of the CPWP organising committee,” Cllr Mac Giolla Easbuig said.
“The foundations of the campaign which Catherine helped so much to build were deeply rooted in the community and would serve to rebuild an unstoppable campaign which swept away water charges.
“Catherine was an inspiration for others in Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay. Despite never before being involved in anything like this, she showed what could be done to encourage communities to stand up and fight back. It is with great sadness that we learned that she will not be with us in future struggles. We will all miss her very much.”
Thomas McGrath of Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay, also recalled that first protest.
“This was my first ever protest on the water campaign and Catherine was definitely a leader in this area against it,” Mr McGrath said.
“She was the first around here to educate the public about water charges and worked hard to inform all local residents with her brother Conal. She was a true and dedicated supporter against austerity. May she rest in peace and our thoughts and prayers are with her children and family circle.”
Beloved wife of the late Michael, Catherine Shaw is survived by her sons Joseph and Thomas, daughter Jacqueline and wider family circle.