By Enda Craig and James Quigley
Donegal a microcosm of national malaise
This article discusses the anti water charge movement in Ireland, in particular Right2Change. It focuses on our experience in Donegal involving some dreadful treatment and shady manoeuvrings by fellow campaigners. It uses this experience to draw conclusions about the national campaign and finds out that we are a mere microcosm of the controversy nationally.
It would be safe to say that this article could be written about the campaign in any county in Ireland and like Donegal are part and parcel of the political quagmire that it has descended into, a cauldron overflowing with political and personal intrigue, cloak and dagger politics, mistrust, competition, egos and downright nastiness.
From the lofty ideals of communities successfully standing together against water charges, resolute in the aim of abolishing Irish Water and preventing the privatisation and commodification of our water resources, we have reached the stage where this hard fought campaign has been subsumed by politicos with their clarion call of 'unity' and 'revolution' and thrown into a myriad of other issues, confusing the anti water protesters and relegating the water charges campaign to the back of the cue.
Righ2Water Subsumed under Right2Change political agenda
Right2Water's target has shifted. It is has now changed it's name to Right2Change and it's focus is not on beating water charges but on the next general election, building some type of left or left of centre political organisation. The optimism built up by the anti water charges success is now giving way to pessimism and confusion. We are at the mercy of political parties and the unions. They have now split this fine movement and we are at the beck and call of these political leaders. The successful community campaign of non payment and non recognition of water charges and Irish Water has been handed to, or was taken over by politicos. The initiative and power has been wrested from local groups and the emphasis is now on institutions that have led to the impasse the county is in.
Look up the definition of a 'politico', a person who will promise anything to win an election. “Parliament is a means of diffusing democracy, of channelling real struggles into a safe dead-end. Time and time again it has become a graveyard for the workers’ movement.” Kevin Doyle Parliament or Democracy
Right2Change has done all this. On that fateful Sat in August, 2015, led by the affiliated unions, particularly Unite and Mandate, Brendan Ogle, the educational officer for Unite and main honcho in Right2Change, shouted from the stage in front of the GPO in Dublin, to the 100,000 anti water charge protesters , “ we haven't gone away, you know, this campaign is much more than water. Say after me, this campaign is much more than water" and holding up the little coloured booklet of Right2Change's policy principles, he launched the Right2Change organisation.
Credit where credit is due
Thus ended, as far as Right2Change was concerned, the anti water charge protest per say. It became the anti austerity campaign, a programme for government, run by the trade unions, Mandate and Unite and hitched its wagon to political parties, Sinn Fein being the most prominent. However, the drama and intrigues are still far from over and it remains unclear what part the vast throngs of protesters have in Right2Change's plans. On the periphery, used when needed.
Brendan Ogle, once pointed to a photograph of protesters in O'Connell St, Dublin and inferred that Right2Change is speaking for them. Time and time again we hear the same sentiment. Right2Change is the voice of the protesters or that Right2Change has built up this movement. They have brought thousands of people on to the streets. Somehow this never sat right with us. In a way, it seems, Brendan Ogle and Right2Change are usurping the rightful credit which should belong to all the various anti water and anti austerity groups in Ireland, the general public who for well over a year now have withstood the might of the state and tramped the streets in protest. Somehow Right2Change believe in their own rhetoric forgetting also that the Anti Austerity Alliance is there too.
The Seed of Doubt
Why are we writing this criticism? Surely by doing it we are sowing the seed of doubt and disunity and mistrust among campaigners?
From the start of the campaign right up to the present we have heard counter arguments like these. Should we bury our heads in the sand, pretend everything is hunky-dory, bite the bullet and ignore the obvious? This is not realistic or sound advice.
Oscar Wilde's once said 'Love that dare not speak it's name'. Something that exist, is inherent but nobody wants to acknowledge it, never mind discuss it for fear that the world would come toppling down, the edifice crumble or pillars collapse.
No we can not hold our tongues. We have to have a written record of our experience in Donegal even though it exposes some hard truths.
Right2Change's mantra and religious connotation
We can not get away from religious similarities or allegories that seems to encompass Right2Change and the fervour groups and individuals portray. We encounter phrases like 'only concentrate on the positive', 'not listening to criticism', 'believe'. There is a blind faith in the leaders and the the mantra of 'Unity' is professed. This behaviour is hard to counteract but thoughts gnaw away at us. We have an inkling that something terribly wrong is happening but not many are speaking out about it.
Part of this is the blind faith, the insidious control, the attacks epitomised in Facebook comments by intense followers who attack anyone who dare question Right2Change. The leaders and followers seem to have a divine belief that it is OK to use threats, slander and odious comments but it is not right for others to question or criticise them or the movement. It is like a cult behaviour, a brainwashing technique used by a very slick and colourful brand. One that has only one way, the right way and those who take a different path are against them, their enemy who have joined forces with FG, Lab, FF, the devils. It is a very black and white way and in the end a fractious and fraudulent, disingenuous way.
Perhaps it is our religious upbringing, the brainwashing which has left an indelible mark on our minds that has sown this seed of doubt. Anything that remotely resembles blind faith, fervour, whipping up the crowd with falsehood that strikes our alarm bells. Or perhaps its our conscience that reminds us that the end does not justify the means.
What ever the cause of our itch, we will discuss the tactics used by Right2Change and related groups. We believe that these tactics have disregarded truth, integrity and principles, demeaned and disregarded people, usurped the movement and protest groups for political or personal agendas.
Local Autonomous Group Struggles to Maintain Independence
Buncrana Against Irish Water is a local Donegal, Inishowen group, non-aligned to any political party or organisation. It is not affiliated to Right2Change or Can't Pay Won't Pay. It was set up to oppose the Government's introduction of water charges, Irish Water Ltd, the Water Services 2007 and 2013 Acts and the privatisation of our natural resource. We would generally support the Right2Change principles with reservations but we also support Can't Pay Won't Pay's campaign of boycotting Irish Water. We do not want to be in any political organisation and we will not be led by any group or political party. After all there is more than one way to defeat Irish Water. One of these ways is refusing water meters and another is boycotting charges and Irish Water. There is also civil disobedience and possibly the legal route. We do not have to rely on political parties. If political parties grow out of the movement or exist already let them support the campaign fully with no party agenda. When the general election comes we will know who to vote for. There is a fine line between a party leading a community for their own ends and a party supporting a community in their campaign.
The BAIC believe that water is a human right and that it should not be turned into a commodity or privatised. It should be run by the state, for the people of the state and paid for through general taxation. We are opposed to the installation of harmful smart meters, detrimental to our health and our privacy. Buncrana Together is the media outlet, facebook and web page for the group.
It is interesting to note that planning for water charges and meter installation has been ongoing since 2000, ever since the introduction of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and all political parties were aware of this . ( see our article National Hoodwink on our web page.
A litany of Donegal controversies, political intrigue and nastiness
Towards the end of last year we noticed that there were different groups in Donegal, namely Right2Water and Can't Pay Won't Pay. There were also some local groups, some affiliated to the main groups and some autonomous groups unaffiliated to any organisation. We noticed that there were frictions between groups through personal conversations, especially in social media and on demonstrations.
Right2Water tended to be in East Donegal and Can't Pay Won't Pay in the west of the county. We noticed that Right2Water Donegal was, and still is, highly influenced by Sinn Fein. In Donegal Sinn Fein have two TDs Padraig MacLochlainn, Donegal North-East and Pearse Doherty, Donegal South-West. There are nine Sinn Fein county councillors, most of whom are involved in the Donegal Right2Water organisation. Sinn Fein representative, Philip McFadden is the main spokesperson, organiser, PRO, sometimes secretary, sometimes chairman for Donegal Right2Water. He has created numerous Right2Water facebook groups (on paper only), in every town in Inishowen in particular, cornering the market for Right2Water.
Can't Pay Won't Pay in West Donegal would be more left wing orientated, possibly leaning towards Anti Austerity Alliance political view but with republican background. Thomas Pringle, TD, and county councillor Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig are supporters.
Being in East Donegal we would have experienced Right2Water's reaction towards their nemesis Can't Pay Won't Pay and Anti Austerity Alliance. This was one of contempt, using phrases like headcases, left wing nuts, Trotskyist, couldn't agree on anything. All disparaging phrases which we still hear today especially on facebook, even from Right2Water coordinators and leading activists.
We have never received or heard an explanation or rational argument why these invectives were and are used and we can only assumed it's propaganda where if something is said often enough it must be true. Incidentally, we have not experienced the same type of hatred coming from the 'left'. However, they have some policy differences but these would be articulated.
It was partly because of this enmity and the control of the campaign by Right2Water, i.e Philip McFadden and Sinn Fein, that we decided to try to form a strong, local community wide unaffiliated Inishowen group and it was also because we found there was very little being done on the ground. It was a facebook campaign with the occasional demonstration.
The community was in the dark and floundering, wondering where was the information and support. Any day the meter contractors would arrive. We also had a problem with non structure, democracy and representation in the local Inishowen Against Water Charges group. This group was supposed to be unaffiliated and non aligned but in reality it was and still is heavily influenced by Philip McFadden i.e. Sinn Fein and Sinead Stewart, Right2Change and as it turns out a groomed Unite trade union representative.
It was felt that a more representative, independent, Inishowen group was needed which could work with both Right2Water or Can't Pay Won't Pay groups in Donegal and would not be affiliated to any organisation or influenced by any political party.
Carndonagh public meeting, Sinn Fein and tight control
A meeting took place in Carndonagh on Jan, 2015 in the hope of setting up such a group. We were in constant communication with Sinead Stewart and Christina Crumlish, Inishowen Against Water Charges, organisers. We also liaised with Sinn Fein and other interested parties. We discussed what we were trying to do and surprisingly all seemed to be in agreement. However, on the actual night of the public meeting our proposal was blocked by the Right2Water and Sinn Fein representative Philip McFadden, Sinead Stewart and Christina Crumlish. Sinead Stewart said that it would be over their dead bodies that they would allow everything that they worked for go. Philip McFadden said that this new group would have to come under the Right2Water umbrella. We were not allowed a vote. Afterwards Sinn Fein took the side of Right2Water and the Inishowen Against Water Charges group. This episode and the accusations and lies which followed shocked us and it is indelibly stamped on our minds. We had our first experience in campaign control and political manoeuvring.
Struggle for control and defence of autonomy
During February, 2015, Buncrana Against Irish Water and Moville Community Against Water Meters were formed after the Carndonagh fiasco. What followed was a concerted effort of divide and rule by Right2Water. Lies and abuse were thrown at us, all of which is in our facebook and web page. Sinn Fein, support remained with their own Philip McFadden's Right2Water and the Inishowen group. They refused to say anything about the level of slander that was levelled at us citing unity as an excuse.
This episode began our enlightenment, our baptism of fire, about what Sinn Fein and de facto Right2Water's agenda was. We were then ostracised. Both Right2Water and Inishowen Against Water Charges did everything in their power to undermine us. Incidentally, we believed at the start that we were part of a movement that was Right2Water, an umbrella group which encompassed all various factions in Ireland in a united front againstwater charges. Noble ideals that in reality, in Donegal and as it turned out nationally, did not come anywhere near the mark.
Buncrana and Monemore initiative
On March 18th, Buncrana Against Irish Water held a meeting in a local hotel. We had speakers from Moneymore in Drogheda who outlined their campaign in their estate. They specifically brokered an deal whereby only people who wanted meters got them. This was the first in Ireland. It has now been successfully replicated in other parts of Ireland. At this meeting we got an overwhelming majority of the 300 or so audience to try to try to see if we could get such a deal after all it was so reasonable. This is relevant to what happenedlater on when we got abused and threatened after successfully getting our own agreement. You can read details about the Moneymore meeting Here.
On April 25th Sinn Fein deliberately flaunt a Can't Pay Won't Pay's request for no political emblems or banners at their protest in Letterkenny by handing out Sinn Fein posters to protesters. Philip Mc Fadden organised Sinn Fein followers with posters to stand directly in front of the platform. This was a provocation and was in the local press and social media. Sinn Fein defended their stance and have never apologised.
An initiative that did not last a day because of political control
On May 12th the Donegal Water Warriors and Donegal IRSP held a meeting in St Mary's Hall, Muff, Inishowen, with groups from all over Donegal attending. At this meeting which included Right2Water, Inishowen Against Water Charges, Buncrana Against Irish Water, Can't Pay Won't Pay, Donegal Water Warriors, Lifford Women, Sinn Fein and the IRSP.
This was an attempt to unite the campaign in Donegal, a new start where there would be a united Donegal wide coordinating group set up. Rightly so, there was an optimistic feeling about this initiative. However, the fledging agreement did not last a day when it was wrecked by Philip McFadden, Sinn Fein/Right2Water and Sinead Stewart, Inishowen Against Water Charges. The day after the meeting Philip McFadden and Ms Stewart unilaterally organised Right2Water meetings all over Inishowen thus bringing an end to the agreement. It is felt by many that Sinn Fein did this because of the IRSP competition and to hold on to control.
Two days after the Muff meeting there was a successful protest in Moville in support of residents in Ard Na Gula Duibhe. The protest was in solidarity with residents and in particular in support of a 77 year old woman who was abused by GMC Sierra water meter installers. The whole meter ready estate was metered without the residents knowing and without their consent. Read article Here in Buncrana Together.
Damning article by Right2Water and Inishowen group against fellow campaigners
The following day after the Moville protest there was a damning article in Donegal Now online newspaper, May 15th. The article was sent in by an anonymous source and it concerned an incident which occurred after the Moville protest. 15 protesters surround lone Irish worker.
This article was followed only 2 hours afterwards by a statement from Donegal Right2Water groups, the Inishowen Against Water Charges and Donegal Water Warriors. The spokesperson was Sinead Stewart. She condemned and disowned all other groups that took part in the incident. See her statement in Donegal Now Abuse of Irish Water worker condemned. Ms Stewart was not even present at the incident and she did not enquire what happened from anyone who was present at the incident. She also passed on the names of two individuals who were present to a local newspaper.
The original article by Donegal Now editor was a poor excuse for journalism. It was from an anonymous source and is highly suspicious. After investigating the article, the wording, the content and circumstances surrounding it, we feel that it was sent in by someone whose intent was to discredit the IRSP, the Buncrana and Moville groups and the Muff agreement of two days earlier. Our suspicions are even more corroborated by the letter to the same paper only hours after the original article appeared. Again designed to discredit us, the IRSP and our campaign groups. These events are documented in Buncrana Together facebook page, in correspondence with the various groups involved and emails sent to the national Right2Water organisers. We have never received an acknowledgement from anybody and none of the mentioned groups have criticised the accusations. We received only one explanation which could be remotely viewed as an excuse. This was fom Owen Curran, a Donegal Right2Water organiser who said that Sinead Stewart was new to campaigning and only learning as she went on.
Successful agreement brokered similar to Moneymore but condemned by Right2Water
In July various Inishowen groups successfully brokered an agreement, similar to the one mentioned earlier in Moneymore, with a local meter contractor. See Inishowen Groundbreaking Agreement on Water Meters . The news was no sooner announced than there followed an onslaught of abuse from various groups including the Donegal Water Warriors and Inishowen Against Water Charges on facebook, as well as newspaper articles from Sinead Stewart. She was supposedly speaking for Right2Water and Inishowen Against Water Charges and Donegal Water Warriors. They viciously attacked the delegation of Inishowen people who brokered the deal. Full details of this onslaught and the vicious, malicious attacks can be read in Buncrana Together Inishowen Agreement the Mandate and in Defence of Peaceful resolution . Again all of this is known to the national Right2Change organisation.
Right2Change made aware of grievances. Reality is not what it seems.
The national Right2Change organisers are well aware of the situation in Donegal, including the control of Donegal Right2Water by Sinn Fein, the disunity in the county and the enmity between Donegal Right2Water and Can't Pay Won't Pay and between Right2Water affiliated groups and others.
All our grievances with Donegal Right2Water and Inishowen Against Water Charges were passed on to Brendan Ogle and other relevant coordinators of Right2Change in Dublin. We did not receive any acknowledgement of our complaints. There has been no change in the status quo or the attitude of Right2Water Donegal. It's modus operandi is business as usual . In fact there is more secrecy, more mistrust, more disunity, more insidious, undemocratic planning and plotting.
It is strange in the midst of this disharmony that there is an upsurge of propaganda in local media and facebook, propagating the notion of Right2Change being the force of unity and strength. This notion of 'unity' which we have been constantly bombard with, is now accompanied by Philip McFadden flooding the airwaves with a proliferation of Sinn Fein and Right2Change propaganda. At one point he is speaking on behalf of Sinn Fein and the next time he could be chairperson, PRO or spokesperson of Right2Change. It has been and still is a paradox. Boundaries are blurred and the profession of 'unity' in fact masks the reality of disunity, political manipulation and influence. It is in fact propaganda whereby hearing something often enough one comes to believe it. There is a false perception and a dangerous reality where people blindly accept what they are told or they are afraid to ask simple and obvious questions for fear of being ridiculed and worse threatened.
Right2Change Local Community Representatives Fraudulent
After all this and in full knowledge of the facts, Brendan Ogle, spokesperson for Right2Change then actively promoted to Donegal community representatives, Philip McFadden, Sinead Stewart, Owen Curran and Charlie McDyer. All Right2Water Donegal supporters and organisers and Right2Water spokespeople at various times. These 'community representatives' are in fact only Right2Water Donegal organisers who have led the Right2Water movement to the factious state that it has become today. Some have even taken part in the abuse of fellow anti water campaigners but all are privy and support the insidious facts. Not one has come out in our defence. They were picked by Brendan Ogle to be Donegal representatives despite knowing full well that they did not represent a cross section of anti water groups in this county never mind the community at large. We could only assume by this action that Right2Change in Dublin supported the status quo in Donegal with Sinn Fein in control and approved the actions of their Right2Change representatives.
Controlled Opposition Donegal and National Right2Change
In this video Brendan Ogles refers to community representatives. This is a total fraudulent statement and describes, in many ways, the deception that is being perpetrated on the Righ2Change supporters and public in general throughout the length and breadth of this island. These individuals have been cynically selected without input from their communities, and over a short period of time, have metamorphosed from unelected supporters to fully fledged community representatives. This type of strategy from H.Q. speaks volumes and throws a shadow over the actions and modus operandi of those at the wheel. Indeed, it calls into question the real agenda of the main drivers and brings into focus the many questions that require urgent response and explanation. The brazen belief that this type of behaviour might well go unnoticed or be simply ignored when referred to is not acceptable.
The community movement, political agenda and control
From the beginning, both locally and nationally, we were fed the lines that Right2Water Ireland was a loose movement of people and communities opposed to water charges. There were no leaders, that it was a loosely, unstructured group. All decisions were taken democratically at group meetings. This type of naive, simplistic and somewhat condescending explanation never sat right with us. Somebody, somewhere must be responsible, accountable. Who was Right2Water and was there an agenda? It couldn't be what we were being told, loose movement, united group, democratic, no leaders, transparent, accountable and so on, especially with the amount abuse we were receiving, the fight for control that we experienced and the pervasive influence of Sinn Fein in Donegal.
When we began asking questions our experience, as described at the start of this article, was somewhat different. Individuals and groups were ostracised, kept in the dark, threatened and maligned. There was a noticeable lack of clarity, openness, transparency and criticism. It is interesting to note that one form of control is ignorance. Another incidentally is blind faith and brainwashing.
This is an example of the type of obvious questions we asked at a Right2Water meeting in Letterkenny. We enquired about the legality of and our rights when protesting against water meter installation. An obvious question you might think but we got a response “don't get bogged down in details”. We wanted to know our rights, our legal position when confronting meter installation as was happening all over the country. When we did not accept that answer we were told that our concerns would get passed on to HQ. We have never received an answer.
Then we tried to find out who was responsible, accountable in Right2Water, both locally and nationally, for decisions and why on the ground not much community organisation and support was happening. The only reply we got was to stick together, unity, and that nobody was in charge. As far as we could tell most of the action and activity was on facebook with the infrequent march now and then and the occasional photo shoot. This type of campaign was not reaching the people. Communities wanted organisation, information, communication and support.
Nationally the same was happening. Everything seemed to be disjointed. There was no accountability, support or good information. Most information was in Facebook, la-la land.
There a very noticeable lull in Right2Water activity and statements after the successful Oct 11, 2014 Right2Water demonstration in Dublin where over 80,000 of us were united against water charges and Irish Water. There were murmurs going around the country about this absent of action from Right2Water and people wondered what was happening.
On the ground communities organised themselves, leafleting, holding community meetings, disrupting meter installations, and supporting the boycott campaign. These were activities that communities could understand and get their teeth into. But communities needed information, support. The Anti Austerity Alliance boycott campaign and We Won't Pay campaigns were active. The boycott campaign was popular and successful. Th AAA was also providing good information, leaflets and advise. TDs like Paul Murphy, Catherine Murphy, Clare Daly were making a nuisance of themselves asking questions about Siteserve, Irish Water's facts and figures. Generally keeping the controversy in the national media.
Fliuch in Cork, were very active against meter installations and were providing great information and advice through their web site. They are still providing this service today. Their emphasis has always been on empowering communities. They produced marvellous legal information as well as organisational advice. Practical support just what we needed. It is incredible that Fliuch have been largely ignored and even ostracised by the national organisations including Right2Change and AAA? How odd is that?
Moneymore initiative in Drogheda again not recognised
Another interesting development was the Moneymore initiative in Drogheda where, against all odds, a community brought meter installation to a halt and managed to extract an agreement from them. There was not one mention about this from Right2Water or the AAA. We concentrated on this approach and have been publicising it ever since. See Moneymore Chooses Negotiation over Confrontation
Local and national friction
As mentioned earlier in Inishowen we were confused and curious about the various organisations in the campaign. Locally we noticed and experienced frictions between organisations. We also noticed that it was the case nationally as well. It took us quite some time to figure what it was all about.
Right2Water/Sinn Fein were organising demonstrations, the Anti Austerity Alliance was organising demonstrations. It wasn't long before we realise that Right2Water/Sinn Fein had issues with the Anti Austerity Alliance. For instance we attended all demonstrations in Dublin. We noticed at Right2Water marches all groups including AAA, attended in great numbers and all publicised it. They were huge. Conversely at AAA organised marches the numbers were smaller, less groups attended and less groups including Right2Water publicised the event. They was a noticeable absence of Sinn Fein posters.
Sinn Fein versus the Left
Issues generally manifested in verbal abuse which we witnessed personally and which we came across on facebook continually. Right2Water and Sinn Fein were portraying the Anti Austerity Alliance as 'the loony left', 'couldn't agree with anything', 'irresponsible' and had an agenda against Sinn Fein. However, it was noticeable that the Anti Austerity Alliance did not resort to invectives but seemed calm and argued their position. They did have issues and argued their point clearly. Another part of this divide was the boycott campaign initiated by We Won't Pay and the AAA. The boycott was very popular and a very effective tactic. It was unbelievably spurned by Right2Water and Sinn Fein organisations although most grassroots were in favour. This entrenched stance has done untold damage to the campaign. Locally Donegal Sinn Fein and de facto Right2Water were at loggerheads with Can't Pay Won't Pay who are aligned with Anti Austerity Alliance.
At the start of this article we mentioned the major problems we experienced in Donegal. It is this experience that has directed us to form our criticisms of Right2Change and to ask questions about it's agenda. In particular our negative experience of the role Sinn Fein has played and the control and influence it has had and continues to have in Donegal Right2Water had a major impact on our thinking. We have come to the conclusion that this influence extends nationally and is at the heart of the Right2Change organisation. We are not criticising Sinn Fein's party politics or any of the paries involved around the campaign but what we are interested in and critical of is the influence political parties have on the water charges movement. We question their commitment to and support of the success of the water charges campaign.
Right2Water Break the Silence with Revelation of Unions Control
On February 15th the lull in Right2Water's activity was broken when five trade unions published 'Right2Water Unions to present Platform for Renewal to May Day Conference in Dublin' on Unite's web site.
It was a major revelation. Five Right2Water affiliated trade unions were organising a conference in Dublin to coincide with the May day commemorations. These were Unite, Mandate, CPSU, OPATSI and The Communications Workers' Union. (The CPSU have since stepped back from Right2Change.) In our experience this was the first time ownership or control was attributed to Right2Water organisation. Well it was the first time we heard it.
We were not sure how to take this. On the one hand, locally, Right2Water and affiliated groups were usurping their positions with no accountability and creating untold damage to the local campaign. On the other hand, we had this announcement from the trade unions. Could the unions bring stability and organisation to the movement. It sounded like a breadth of fresh air. Possibly the unions could organise, give direction, distribute information, resources and advice. Maybe bring a stop the questionable behaviour of local Right2Water personnel.
Our optimism did not last long. Nothing changed structurally in the local Donegal Right2Water organisation. Nationally it seemed there was a power shift within Right2Water. The orchestrated taking control by the five trade unions of Right2Water only seemed to give carte blanche to the organisation to wield power and propaganda. It gave an added swagger to local and national Rigth2Water activists. Social issues other than the water charges issue started to creep into statement and to proliferate facebook.
Instead of action from Right2Water we got diktat, talk of elections, comrades, timelines, fiscal policy, and taking power after the next general election. A scare tactic was introduced, if we did not get organised politically for the impending general election we would be doomed and at the mercy of a right wing government.
The long run up to the May Day trade union Right2Water conference in Dublin ensued. During this time of reflection there was talk and rumours about political parties and a shift away from protest to thoughts of elections, revolution, people's power and a myriad of other social issues, all very worthwhile and all very urgent. The ordinary campaigner especially in rural Ireland was bewildered. If it wasn't for the boycott campaign, the constant questions in the Dail and the successes and hardship around the country of communities stopping the installation of water meters, we would have been totally confused.
Right2Water Trade unions plans set off alarm bells
As we mentioned earlier in the article, the process of picking local representatives and having them undergo Unite's political training courses and so forth began in this period. When we saw how this process operated and the representatives that were picked and by whom, alarm bells began to ring and these bells have been ringing ever since, getting louder and louder. Our concerns about democracy, accountably, integrity, secrecy, honesty, got more entrenched even got worse.
Right2Water Union's Policy Conference on May 1, 2015
Jimmy Kelly of Unite discusses water and the politics of austerity at the May Day conference hosted by Trade Unions affiliated to Right2Water.
“I think it was a progressive development, the alliance of trade unions that came together to form Right2Water. And it has never been exclusive. It has always been the more the merrier, as it should be but it had to start somewhere and it started with the five unions who are now on board”
That was the cat out of the bag. It took all this time to find out whose brainchild Right2Water Ireland was. It was the unions who formed it.
In his speech the profession of 'Unity' and it's repetition was interesting. It seemed like an appeal. Who was this appeal directed at? Surely not the communities who were totally united in their opposition to water charges, to Irish Water, and to all the political parties who supported the charges or had anything to do with their introduction.
Incidentally this declaration of 'Unity' has been a feature ever since, a mantra as it were, repeated constantly at meetings, in newspapers, and facebook by Right2Water spokespersons the length and breadth of the country. It is noticeable, especially here in Donegal that this clarion call is repeated by Sinn Fein spokespersons. What is this 'unity' appeal all about, what does it mean? In our opinion it really means nothing since we are all united against water charges. Does it mean unity of the affiliated political parties? Does it mean that we have to agree with what ever the agenda the unions have? This word 'unity' in this context means nothing. It is only a battering ram used by Right2Change and Sinn Fein to discredit anyone who dare ask questions. Ironically it is this professed 'Unity' that has been instrumental in creating disunity. If anyone criticises or asks question, the standard reply is 'Unity'.
Another niggling thought. Was it A takeover?
Take a look at this article and video, Richard Boyd Barrett, TD, People Before Profit, in thejournal.ie, April 26th, 2015.
He says that “ the first meetings of Right2Water took place in my office, where I invited people from the other left parties and Sinn Fein and trade unions leaders into my office and said lets get a big broad campaign and we have seen spectacular result”.
Who is telling the truth? If you believe Mr Barrett, and it is very credible that he is telling the truth then we would have come to the conclusion that the May Day Right2Water trade union announcement was a takeover bid by the trade unions and possibly others.
Brendan Ogle, Unite, launches policy document at May conference
At the May conference organised by the five trade unions, Brendan Ogle launched the new policy document.
It was striking that in his introduction he appears to issue a warning, a broadside against any dissenter saying “ anyone who presents this document to anyone as something that has been decided on or preordained then they are being dishonest.” What brought that on, was he protesting too much, indeed he appears angry?
Anyway it would be honest to say that the document he had in his hand was in fact preordained or decided on by the unions. Otherwise it would not be in his hand. Secondly it would be fair to say that the itinerary for discussion and the time-frame for decisions were also predefined and decided on.
The token gesture of praising the communities by saying that they were the 'genesis of the campaign and this should not be forgotten', came across as condescending. It was premeditated to somehow portray Right2Water as the natural chosen leader of the community movement and it's driving force.
Move over communities, the trade unions and political parties have come to town.
In retrospect Mr Ogle's allusion to the discussion document being a start of a consultation process which may even take years and might never be finished, doesn't hold true in retrospect. In only a few short months Right2Water Ireland was steered to and eventually subsumed into the Right2Change political organisation. The water charge issue became only one part of Right2Change's 10 'Policy Principles For A Progressive Government', with emphasis on taking power after the 2016 Spring general elections. Right2Change's policy principles and submission can be read here on their web page.
Trade union's Fiscal Framework
The idea of preordained policies and structures entered the mix again, not long after the May conference. The unions launched an Alternative Economic Framework for a Progressive Irish Government. This was designed to set the tone for the June 13th follow up conference. Most people wouldn't have a clue about the economic subject matter, most people would not even read it. Probably they would, as usual, have a belief that experts such as the unions and the Nevin Economic Research Institute must know what they are talking about. Here's that word 'belief' again. Belief in the economic gurus.
However, it is obvious that this framework document did not just appear out of thin air. Like the idea of the Right2Change name change and the policy principles did not appear out of thin air. It is reasonable to assume that this fiscal framework was planned in advance. So this is what the Right2Water movers and shakers were up to during that lull at the end of 2014 and the start of 2015. They saw the potential of the mass movement and made plans to harness this force.
Having glanced over this economic document, conspiracy minded people like ourselves might think that it was very similar to what Sinn Fein has been advocating for some time and which is in their policy document. Perhaps they drink from the same NERI well.
Fliuch has written a short analysis on the Right2Change's fiscal policy in this article Right2Water/Right2Changepolicy and fiscal framework. We agree with Fliuch's analysis, especially in light of recent events in Greece and Portugal. We have never heard any discussion or articles on this fiscal framework, either locally or nationally, apart from ourselves, Fliuch and the Anti Austerity Alliance.
Absence of Debate, Representation And Transparency
Just as we have pointed out earlier when we criticised our local so called Right2Change representatives and the method used to select them, their lack of representation and democracy within Donegal Right2Water, so too similar concerns have been voiced all over Ireland.
Here is an excellent article in Fair Society, May 29, 2015 by Brendan Young, “R2W report: May 26. Long – but significant things happened” . An excellent article which covers the author's experience in one of the Right2Water steering committees at the time.
“There was a wide-ranging discussion on the forthcoming R2W-unions conference on June 13. The key issue was whether invitations to the conference could be opened out to much larger numbers of local community activists from the campaign. The union officials explained that the restriction on numbers was due to the size of the room available for free.”
Again in the Irish Left Review Principles for a left alternative. Brendan Young on the same issue of wider community input.
“To best achieve the potential for this movement, we believe that the process needs to be opened up and democratised. Without grassroots participation, any political initiative will lack the energy and vibrancy needed to challenge the political establishment. So we think the follow up conference on June 13 should have delegates invited from all of the community groups campaigning against water charges, selected over the coming weeks at local meetings”
Right2WaterJune 13th Conference lack of representation
On June 13th the Right2Water Trade Unions held a second policy conference in Dublin. The process was not opened out, representation was minimal and undemocratic. This is the trade union's guidelines for submissions Submissions to June 13 conference.
Firstly policies and agenda were already set by the trade unions. Secondly submissions are a poor substitute for democratic and wide public discussion. Thirdly the time-frame for the whole process was hurried and pressurised. Fourthly the process of submissions is not transparent.
Close relationship between Right2Water unions and Sinn Fein demonstrated by the absent of boycott support.
Although the Unions affiliated to Right2Water claimed they formed the organisation, a claim that has been disputed by Richard Boyd Barret, we suggest that this manoeuvre is nothing but a coup, a takeover of Right2Water and the mass movement. We also believe from our experience in Donegal that Sinn Fein has a controlling influence in Donegal Right2Water. We have found this out also from conversations with people close to Right2Change organisers, from statements, from policy and most importantly the lack of policy, all indicate that there is a very close link between the Right2Change Unions and Sinn Fein. This link has been there from the beginning of Right2Water, and it has been consolidated by the Union takeover in May 2015. The subsequent politicisation of Right2Change, the absence of support for Anti Austerity Alliance and other left wing parties throughout the campaign, as well as the continual demonisation of the left again demonstrate this link. The refusal both of Sinn Fein and Righ2Change to join the left boycott campaign, the inclusion of the Good Friday Agreement in the policy document, the EU centred fiscal policy and not least the eventual and orchestrated expulsion of the Anti Austerity Alliance from Right2Change all point to a predefined plan of control by the unions and Sinn Fein. There is no official explanation about the relationship from Right2Change except that Sinn Fein in one of a number of political parties affiliated to Right2Change. However they are, at present anyway, the biggest and strongest affiliated party in Right2Change.
Is it a coincidence that the logos are getting quite close to each other. Notice the green map. So Right2Change is becoming a 32 county republican organisation?
Where does Right2Change, Sinn Fein priority lie and commitment to the campaign
We have mentioned about our attempt in Donegal at escalating our local campaign by creating a more representative, non-aligned, non affiliated, more democratic organisation and how this was thwarted by Sinn Fein and their fronts. This was Sinn Fein's tactic here to remain in the background using fronts to direct and control the campaign. On many occasions we experienced this method of control and it is not a surprise that this would be happening nationally.
We would question how much commitment Sinn Fein and even Right2Change has to mobilise and empower communities. Instead their efforts are directed at publicity, photo opportunities, the grand occasion, politics, elections and maximising votes. When did you ever see a Sinn Fein TDs on the barricades and for that matter Union officials. Very similar modus operandi between Right2Change and Sinn Fein. It is not for nothing that Sinn Fein has got the label, 'they are not the party of protest any more'. Perhaps it's because Sinn Fein is so busy being a respectable party that they will not touch anything or call for anything remotely unlawful. Much the same as Right2Change, not really revolution, just respectability and tweaking of EU policies.
This tendency to respectability is why Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald, Pearse McLaughlin and many other Sinn Fein officials dithered on paying their water bills, dithered on signing Irish Water agreements. They did not want to, or wanted to be seen breaking the law or encouraging any one to insurrection against civil authority.
Gerry Adams speaking in Dail Eireann said “The motion also calls for a boycott of water charge bills by householders. This is not the Sinn Féin position. We will support those who cannot pay and those who have decided not to pay. However… we do not call for a boycott.” Now that is watery.
In this article in thejournal.ie, way back on Oct 17, 2014, Mary Louputs the blame on Paul Murphy TD for being reckless. That little upstart way back then. Mary Lou: Socialists were nowhere to be seen after telling people to boycott property tax
" the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) will abandon people who boycott their water charges when they face possible sanctions. The Sinn Fein deputy leader said that her party will not be advocating a ‘don’t pay’ policy for people facing Irish Water bills in January despite the AAA, of which the Socialist Party is a member, calling for an outright boycott of the new charges.”
Where is Right2Change policy on a boycott?
You would be hard pressed to find an official Right2Change policy on boycotting water charges. This is getting to the heart of the relationship between Sinn Fein and Right2Change. Brendan Ogle has explained his position on the matter, it was a personal decision. Low and behold it turns out to be the same as Sinn Fein's. We take it that this is the official policy in Right2Change, even though the vast majority of people opposed to water charges agree with the boycott. Even Sinn Fein supporters are in favour of the boycott. Was there a democratic decision taken not to call for a boycott by Right2Change?
If we understand and accept the relationship between Right2Change and Sinn Fein and the control Sinn Fein has within the organisation, then how could the Unions disagree or be seen to disagree with their biggest backer, their ticket to power? If there was a disagreement then that possibly would be the end of the Union's and Sinn Fein's and Right2Change odyssey. How come there's not one dissenting voice within the affiliated unions? It is hard to believe unless there is an agreed agenda.
Sinn Fein for reasons of courting respectability will not advocate anything close to breaking the law, hence the confusion about Sinn Fein TDs paying water charges and signing up to Irish Water. Right2Change could not come out officially with a policy which contradicts the major affiliated party. How could the Right2Change's policy be different to Sinn Fein's? Even though it's stance on the boycott is divisive, even though it is contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of protesters, even though the boycott campaign is a major strategy for defeating the water charges, Right2Change is sticking with Sinn Fein through thick or thin. It can do nothing else.
Sinn Fein biggest Right2Chang party must have biggest say
Remember we said that we passed our reservations about what was happening in Donegal, including Sinn Fein's control of Right2Change and we never even got an acknowledgement? Burying your head in the sand is a trait Right2Change officials have learnt and practice deftly. They weather the storm. They batten down the hatches. They form a circle and wait until controversy blows over. This is certainly a political manoeuvre, one which Sinn Fein is practised at and one the unions are probable capable of too. Right2Change have good advisers. They argue that they do not respond to abuse and criticisms and prefer to concentrate on the positives.
However, in Castlepollard, this guard was let slip. At the Solutions conference supposedly for people who did not get invited to Right2Water's conferences, we brought up the thorny subject of Sinn Fein's control and the antics of Right2Water personnel in Donegal. Our concerns were frowned on by Right2Water representativesand we got the answer “Sinn Fein is the biggest party in Right2Water, why shouldn't they have the biggest say. They are our best hope of winning the general election”
When we tried to broach the subject again we were accused of having a Sinn Fein vendetta. So there you have it, the guard was let slip and all was revealed, Sinn Fein have the biggest say
Sinn Fein'sWater Policy
Another major source of information that reveals the relationship between Right2Change and Sinn Fein is Sinn Fein's actual water policy The Future of Our Water Service, Governance, Funding and Delivery
Nowhere in this document does it advocate abolishing Irish Water or the draconian Water Services Acts. In fact it talks about working withintheir parameters, with major focus on the EU.
In the Right2Change's policy on water charges, it clearly states abolishing Irish Water albeit optimistically after 100 days of getting into power.
These two positions are unclear and at worst opposites. Incidentally the '100 days after getting into power' is a little ambiguous too. What happens if Right2Change or affiliated parties do not get into power? This ambiguity is strange and it is strange how Righ2Change Unions do not get a clarification from Sinn Fein or indeed even acknowledge the difference. Perhaps it is blind faith at work.
And now for the finale - Bring me the head of John The Baptist
Maybe we should continue the religious analogy and say that Mr Murphy is Sinn Fein's John the Baptist. He is their political conscience, especially the conscience of SF left leaning thinkers.
Maybe it's fear of what the Anti Austerity Alliance could do to Sinn Fein's electoral prospects as demonstrated in this article in the Irish Times, Oct12 2014, 'Paul Murphy trumps Sinn Féin’s Cathal King in Dublin South West'
Maybe it is the Anti Austerity Alliance's successful stance and campaign against the water charges and Irish Water, including the popularity of the boycott campaign.
Whatever the reason there was a plot hatched to severe the Anti Austerity Alliance connection. Too controversial, too critical, too successful and not too respectable.
Anti Austerity Alliance had to go.
Sinn Fein's nemesis, the Anti Austerity Alliance had to go and what better way to get this done than to use your Right2Change comrades to do it.
It has been a well thought our strategy by Sinn Fein and Right2Change, a typical experienced manoeuvre and one which has been fomenting for some time, culminating on the last week in Oct, 2015, on the eve of Right2Change's ultimatum to all affiliated political parties.
Beware the Ides of Oct.
Mary Lou McDonald delivered the coup de grace saying that it would be 'Unforgivable', if other left wing parties did not unite and sign up to Sinn Fein electoral pact . Unforgivable’ for left wing parties not to join pact, says McDonald' Irish Times Oct 27, 2015. See the references to 'Unity'.
Et tu, Brute or should it be Et tu, Mary Lou!
This story and what followed throughout the eventful week ending Oct 31, 2015, in Right2Water's power struggles. was covered pretty well in Buncrana Together and Fliuch.org and the AAA pages. However, there was a noticeable dearth of comment elsewhere apart from the odd affiliated party member or independent who when hearing about a pact started to run for cover. There was no official statement from Right2Change condemning the unilateral action of Sinn Fein to announce the voting pact. This article from Fliuch in our web site SF vote pact: Transfers part of voting deal, says union (Right2Change) sees John Douglas of Mandate in a roundabout way, support Sinn Fein's pact.
Silence is a form of tacit approval and Right2Change officials, not having uttered a peep would suggest that they accepted what Sinn Fein did. They were, either afraid to contradict Sinn Fein, or they approved the manoeuvre. We would go with the latter because. Events at the end of the week at a Right2Change's presentation to affiliated community groups at Wynn's Hotel in Dublin, showed that their decision to get rid of the Anti Austerity Alliance was already made.
Right2Change manipulate Anti Austerity Alliance Reply
This controversy was covered by Buncrana Together, Fliuch and Anti Austerity Alliance. You can read our article Anti Austerity Alliance Accuses Right2Change on our web page
Paul Murphy's statement that Right2Change manipulated the Anti Austerity Alliance if true is a game changer and it look like he has the proof on his side. Both documents and video clearly depict a falsification on Right2Changes part and in particular Brendan Ogle who present the video to the Right2Change conference. This falsification and subsequent denials bring into question the integrity of Right2Change and in particular Brendan Ogle.
We would like to put it on record that we believe the insertion of 'No' is completely wrong. How anyone can justify it or defend it is beyond imagination. It is deliberate manipulation of fact. Both Anti Austerity Alliance answers and the accompanying YouTube video, see below, entitled 'Part2 of Brendan Ogle speaking at the community pillar meeting in Wynn's Hotel Dublin City Centre 31/10/2015' verify this.
Softening up the masses for the big heave-ho, the propaganda machine
We have mentioned political intrigue, manoeuvres, manipulation, omissions, intimidation, fervour, blind faith, constant stream of images and invectives on facebook and other media. All this could be interpreted as propaganda.
We have talked about how the Right2Change brand is a public relations paradise for Sinn Fein. We have alluded to the close relationship between Sinn Fein and Right2Change and we have looked at the agenda behind this relationship.
However, we can not end without adding what we think epitomises Sinn Fein and Right2Changes propaganda machine. Believe it or not it is Sinn Fein's own left wing thinker Eoin O'Broin, a Sinn Fein councillor with South Dublin County Council, who provides the glue. Here in an article published by Eoin o'Broin in Wordpress on on June22, 2015, just a couple of weeks after the Right2Change June conference. 'Reflections after Right2Water Progressive Irish Government conference' It is ironical that Right2Change, the unions and Sinn Fein all call for unity and a united left but send out their spokespersons to muddy the waters by denigrating their comrades.
“The revolutionary left, led by an alphabet soup of Leninist grouplets, have never been able to lift themselves out of the comfort zone of pure opposition and slogan based politics. Despite the important role these groups have played in many grass roots campaigns their impossibilism has led to self-marginalisation.”
In our view there is a mountain of issues, a volcano of ideas that just burst forth from Mr O'Broin's article. It a very important article, not for it's critical analyse of the left in Ireland but for how it demonstrates the link between Sinn Fein and Right2Change and how it uses subtle nuances to denigrate the left. It epitomises the continual propaganda that Sinn Fein and Rigth2Change use with great effect and it demonstrates their mutual agenda. Just two weeks prior to the article at the June conference they espoused unity and strength. It is no coincidence that the sidelining, the denunciation of Anti Austerity Alliance was designed to affect the outcome of Oct 29th 2015 Right2Change's decision to oust Sinn Fein's nemesis.
Just one question on Mr O'Broin's reflections, where would Sinn Fein and Right2Change be in the 'alphabet soup', reformist or revolutionary or just floating about?
What this all boils down to is more of the same 'cute hoor' and parish pump politics which the Irish are master of. We are getting what we have always got, no transparency, political intrigue and manipulation.
We hero worship the charlatan, emulate their devious tricks and crucify nonconformists.