by James Quigley
February 21, 2017, must go down in Irish history as the day the anti water movement was utterly shafted by Right2Water Trade Unions. On that day Steve Fitzpatrick (Communications Workers Union) along with Dave Gibney (Mandate) appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Funding of Domestic and accepted the principle of water charges for excessive use.
Both Fitzpatrick and Gibney were introduced by the Committee chairman as representing Right2Water.
The official record shows that Barry Cowen (Fianna Fáil) asked the witnesses directly ″if this committee was in a position to agree a process by which people who use excessive amounts of water were charged, is Right2Water happy with that.″
Mr Fitzpatrick replied ″yes″.
After this bombshell some in R2W later argued that Mr Fitzpatrick’s was actually talking about swimming pools and industrial water use, however, the record clearly shows that his answer was indeed in relation to domestic water use.
The more I watch the video and read the Oireachtas transcript, the more I am convinced that the presentation was planned. The two union officials seemed to know what was coming. The furtive glances, the nods and demeanour, the nervous tension all lead one to believe that it was a well choreographed drama. Although the charade seems to have done enough to fool a lot of people, however, the fact remains that the official Dáil records show that Right2Water accepted the principle of water charges.
The two union officials unilaterally went against a fundamental demand of Ireland's anti water movement, i.e. no water charges. This action, which can only be seen as deliberate led to the outcome of the final Oireachtas Report. Were these two seasoned trade unionists, well versed in the art of collective bargaining, duped by Fianna Fáil? That's hard to believe. Three times they were asked and three time they answered 'yes'.
It is difficult to see what purpose the two trade union officials had in attending the Committee session other than to agree with water charges and copper-fastening the Trade Union’s control of the anti water movement. It was emphasised several times by the chairman and by Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen that Mr Fitzpatrick and Gibney spoke on behalf of the Right2Water movement.
The question of how come two union officials came to represent Ireland’s Right2Water is startling. In the first place the fact that they attended the committee session made it official that they were speaking on behalf of the movement. Secondly it set in stone their agreement to an excessive use charge. After that there was no going back.
It was all the more remarkable since it was the first time Steve Fitzpatrick played such a key public role in the movement. It’s as if he was brought in to do a job, a job he fulfilled to the letter.
Video link to full session