In these days of political intrigues in Ireland when media sleuths are waiting to pounce on controversy, is it politic for an organisation's main spokesperson to air personal views without consulting the organisation? Would that be considered correct or professional? We know in times of political strife a tactic is sometimes used to sound out public opinion. Perhaps that is acceptable in the political arena but in a public campaign with multi party support and built on camaraderie, then making a personal statement without consulting other members beforehand may not have been prudent.
Last Thursday, April 14, Brendan Ogle, spokesperson for Right2Water affiliated trade unions, made a personal statement on his Facebook page calling on all Dail TDs who support the anti water charge campaign to vote for a Fianna Fail minority government.
"I (unusually) had the time today to follow every word of what happened in the Dail and one thing is crystal clear to me, more than ever.
There is an opportunity to elect a FF minority Government that will abolish Irish Water and, if they break that promise, the plug can be pulled by those outside FF at any time.
I have received emails from politicians saying that nobody should trust FF. They are spot on. I don't. But I am not in any party precisely because not only do I not trust FF, but because I do not trust any of them.
Lack of trust however should not be a barrier to doing business. I have concluded many collective agreements with employers over the years and the hard fact is I trusted none of them either. But even without trust agreements had to be made and they were mostly honoured.
In my view it isn't. An agreement can be reached that will abolish Irish Water and if it isn't delivered by the biggest part then, in a minority Government situation, the plug gets pulled and those who broke theircommitment exposed in an inevitable election then. But put it up to them. It may be that behind the scenes a political judgement is being made that it suits this group or that groups long term strategic interests to just keep going, regardless of Irish Water, and not form a minority Government to abolish Irish Water and charges now. If that is the case then that is a political strategic objective that may well be legitimate in that party or alliance " Read full statement here.
Campaigners taken by surprise
This unilateral statement has caused quite a heated debate on his facebook page and among the anti water charge movement in general. It has taken seasoned campaigners totally by surprise.
Fianna Fail as everyone knows is a right wing Irish party who were in government at the time of the 2009 financial crash and subsequent bank guarantee which the Irish Mirror described as "Ireland's €440 billion bank guarantee was the most destructive own-goal in history, a banking expert has told an Oireachtas inquiry."
The Irish General election took place on February 29th, 2016 and still there is no government in place , with parties in negotiations to form what looks to be some type of minority government. What is looking more likely, at present, is a minority with Fine Gael, (50 seats), doing a deal with the second largest party Fianna Fail, (44 seats) along with possible support from some Independents and the Labour Party, (7 seats). In this scenario Fianna Fail would get some of their policies implemented in exchange for committing their support to a minority Fine Gael/Ind/Labour government for a fixed term.
Call is an error and should be dropped according to campaigners.
Cllr Brendan Young and Mr Pat Waine, long time anti water charged campaigners and Right2Water activists, spoke out against Mr Ogle's statement.
Mr Young said "Controversy has unfortunately arisen in the movement against the water charge. The main spokesperson for R2W, Brendan Ogle, has publicly called for TDs, who oppose water charges (some or all of the TDs of the Left, or SF, SDs or Independents) to elect a FF minority government that would abolish IW.
There was no need to make such a call. Mr Ogle could simply have called for pressure to be put on FF and Independents and parties to vote for a Bill to abolish IW and water charges, whether or not they vote for a FG or FF minority government. Indeed there are currently discussions taking place on the drafting of such a Bill. There could also be a meeting called to discuss other actions to put pressure on TDs, including the possibilities of mobilisations, non-payment.
Mr Ogle is mistaken in saying that electing a FF government is similar to a trade union making an agreement with an employer. A trade union that makes an agreement with an employer does not take on to impose cuts on other workers. But a TD who elects a FF (or FG) government would be taking responsibility for continued austerity in exchange for abolition of one charge.
Any TD who did this would be abandoning the fight against austerity, betraying their supporters and – like Labour – would never be trusted again. Surely UNITE members would not want TDs who declared opposition to austerity to let FF get on with it unopposed?
I think this call to elect a FF government is an error that should be dropped."
Pat Waine and I have convened a meeting at 1pm in the Teachers Club, Parnell Sq, Dublin on April 16 to discuss the current situation and how to take the fight forward. While we have differences with others in the movement, we think we should all work together to enforce the abolition of the water charge." Read Mr Young's full statement here
The proposed meeting took place last Saturday and Mr Young said that a statement and press release will be released on Wednesday.
To date there has been no official statement on the issue from Right2Water affiliated trade unions.