James Quigley, a member of Buncrana Against Irish Water group and Buncrana Together responds to the Irish Times article on Oct 27 'Sinn Féin to agree pact with left-wing parties' and Independents and the RTE News article on Oct 27, 2015 'McDonald calls on left wing parties to cooperate. Both articles can be read HERE
As a republican, a socialist and a person who has supported Sinn Fein for many, many years, I am responding to these articles.
First let me say that I totally agree that all left wing and progressive parties and Independents should cooperate fully, not only to form an election pact for the forthcoming elections but also should unite now under the Anti Water Charges Campaign. This campaign and related austerity issues are much too serious for personal squabbling and party agendas.
Many Sinn Fein party members here in Donegal, including Padraig MacLochlainn, TD will know me and my stance on many issues down through the years. They will know that I do not blindly follow but rather ask questions, discuss and finally make my own mind up. Unfortunately this attitude does not suit Sinn Fein or their party whip system. It has landed me, many times on the receiving end of a lot of angry diktat. The Sinn Fein party politic likes control. It is this control that I will constantly question. I like freedom of expression, understanding and honesty. I encourage all republicans, everybody to do likewise and not blindly follow leaders. To have a strong, inclusive party or movement there must be differences of opinions and these opinions must be allowed to be aired.
As for Sinn Fein statements in these article, I believe that they are party politically oriented, designed to push their agenda, whatever that is. Anyone can see that the statements are manipulative divisive and condescending and maybe threatening It is a manoever that Sinn Fein has been doing for a long time now and none more so than in the 'Water Charges Campaign'. I am speaking from experience in the Donegal campaign. It is hard to know whether it is the tail wagging the dog? Is Sinn Fein representing the wishes of the grassroots? Or is Sinn Fein following their own political agenda? Who is leading who?
I have been constantly hearing catchphrases up here, locally and nationally from Sinn Fein and even Right2Water such as 'unity', 'peoples movement', 'grassroots movement' and so on. However, in reality they are rhetorical. In fact the opposite is happening, disunity, discord. If you are not with us you are against us. How many time have we heard this? Dictatorship may be harsh but it is not far off the mark when parties dictate and frown on discension, disagreement, opposition. If you voice your opinion or disagree you are pounced on, ostracised, ridiculed. Anyway who in their right mind could argue against nice phrase like unity, common goals? Mary Lou exemplifies this in her statement “It would be unforgivable if other left wing parties did not come together under the common Right2Change banner”.
Another thing about the statements in question is that they are unilateral. It is Sinn Fein. If it was unity, or building a strong opposition that the statements were designed to encourage, then why do it alone? Why belittle, antagonise, threaten others and back them into a corner? This is baffling but if you see it in the light of pushing ones agenda then it becomes clear.
Is it not true that meetings between left and progressive parties and independents have been ongoing for the past fortnight, facilitated by the Right2Change unions. By the way these clandestine meetings were arranged without grassroot movement's knowledge? If these meetings were designed to build a strong unified opposition in the country then why not wait until the end of these meetings to come out with a statement from the group as a whole? The grassroots are bewildered.
There is a subtle difference between a party or persons, or group being in any campaign to win it per se or whether it is there to further their own political agenda. The latter is somthing I abhor and I will do everything in my power to oppose that. Sometimes a campaign is bigger, more important than the individual or political party. This 'Water Campaign', our sovereignty and fight against right wing's austerity measures are such campaigns. Irish history is littered with examples of selfless acts and none more so that James Connolly and Wolf Tone. Let Sinn Fein, the Left, the Independents and Right2Change emulate this.
Mary Lou mentions that Sinn Fein is happy to sign up to Righ2Change common principles. Firstly, I believe that Right2Change water policy and principles are pretty general overall. There would need to be more detail. Secondly I believe that the Right2Water discussion process was not democratic or representative. It did not involve the movement throughout Ireland and was very selective who took part. However, that is another article. Suffice to say that Right2Water is a good idea but badly done.
To dwell on the 'Water Campaign', the Right2Change's Right2Water policy states that “Irish Water PLC and domestic water charges will be abolished within the first 100 days of a progressive Government”. That seems clear enough. Does Sinn Fein agree with this and is this their policy? Where in Sinn Fein's water services policies does it mention abolition of water charges and Irish Water? I refer you to Sinn Fein's Water Services Policy http://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/36060. This does not mention abolishing anthing. In fact it seems to refer to reforming Irish Water and in doing so Sinn Fein will do so by using the Water Services Act 2013, where it states “such action can be facilitated under part 4, section 32 of the Water Services Act 2013”. How does this lend itself to the “coming together under the Right2Change common banner” which Mary Lou emphasised would be unforgivable.
We the grassroots need clear policies, not political manoeverings. We need to abolish Irish Water and water charges. We need our so called political representatives to get behind us, to give us clear, unified support and not frustrate us with their rhetoric. We need them to be honest with us and keep us informed at all times.
I would ask the Sinn Fein leadership to listen to their grassroots, people who understand that boycotting water charges is one of the most important non violent tactics that we have to defeat Irish Water . Get off your high horses and march with us. Do not dictate to us. Gerry Adams and many Sinn Fein Tds have subsequently reiterated that they got badly abused when they advocated boycotting water charges in the Six Counties and that is why they will not call for a boycott now. Let me remind them that I was involved in boycotting and advocating boycotting water charges in the Republic in 1996 and that was one of the major reasons which the campaign was successful then. Change your policy of not boycotting and get behind us and support us. This change would do more for unity and uplift this campaign. You can change your mind, you have done it in the past and we have forgiven you. Listen to the grassroots who understand instinctively that the total abolishion of the Irish Water quango, the Water Services Acts and Water Charges has to be the goal.