Who can you trust and the political shenanigans in the Anti Water Charges campaign?

by James Quigley

There's a degree of poetic license taken here but maybe not as much as that taken by political parties, some individuals and trade unions over who is or isn't the stalwart defenders and spokespersons for the nationwide anti water charges campaign.

Peoples' power, the backbone of the campaign, has been usurped and the hard fought anti water movement is now at a crossroads.  One road leading to a political quagmire where power has been wrested from ordinary people by political parties, unions and their devotees.  This road has culminated in the movement followingparticular agendas.

Maybe it is well past the time we take the other road and wrest back our movement.  With a hammer break the politicos' glass bubble and with the sickle cut off the head of these self-obsessed union officials and the political party hydras.  Maybe it is more like a sledgehammer and scythe that is needed for them to get the message.


This article has been inspired by a friend of mine who describes himself as 'a bit of a farmer'.  You notice farmers never tell you much about their business.  Maybe they are right, big brother knows far too much already.  Patrick is or has been a Fianna Fail supporter and voter.  By the sounds of him, he is now teetering on the brink of apathy or possible anarchy.

Much like myself when it comes to the political chicanery of our mealy mouthed, bloated, self-important public servants.  When politicians cross that ballot line all promises and truth goes out the window and the party machine takes over. They get accustomed to their well stuffed pockets and bellies feeding on the promises of party politics and self importance hyperbole.

My friend, Patrick, the soon to be repentant Fianna Fáil supporter, is an avid anti water charge campaigner.  He marched the length and breadth of the country along with all the other 'salt of the earth' anti austerity, anti corruption supporters.  By the way he is a strong supporter of the water charge boycott campaign. A sound man and one who can be relied upon to speak his mind and just as important, listen to others.

On Friday morning he phoned me to ask whether I read the Irish Independent article 'Latest bid to scrap water charges fails as FF and FG unite' and what did I think of it?  By his tone I felt he was feeling down, dejected.  Afterwards I thought that many people would be feeling like this.  

I hadn't read the article and believe it or not I didn't even know that there was yet another Dáil motion put forward by Sinn Fein on the abolition of Water Charges.  It was defeated 94 to 47,  see the web page 'Kildare Street:Are Your TDs Working For You'.  What a good name?  
Patrick was despondent partly because he is a Fianna Fail voter and they voted against the Sinn Fein motion but also because he feels so strongly about the issue.  This nationwide, grassroots issue has now been usurped by political parties, union officials, whose well oiled and financed party machines who along with their,  'gift of the gab' forked tongued, unscrupulous aficionados have worked their way to positions of power, always, always pushing their own agendas.  It may be pushing it a bit to describe them as Stalinist but dissent and democracy are no-nos.   

Talking with Patrick, I got the feeling he was becoming more cynical and sceptical.  I suppose given the circumstances it is not surprising.  Our anti water charges ship is adrift, rudderless, having been steered into the doldrums of a politically orchestrated 'Domestic Water Commission' where it will remain drifting until next year, 2017 when this so called 'independent commission' will report back and a vote will be taken in the Dáil.

Water Commission timing and the 'River Basin Management Plan'

The timing here is very important not only for the subject of this article but also because this commission, whose final result is a foregone conclusion, is happening simultaneously with another more important and mind-bogglingly ignored River Basin Management Plan.  Sinn Fein, Right2Water Trade Unions and Fianna Fáil have all been notified about this.  You possibly have heard about the Water Framework Directive 2000 and the9.4 Exemption.  You may not be aware of it's importance and how this little 9.4 section is the Government's Water Charges Achilles heel.  To date none of the above parties have replied or even said a dicky-bird about the River Basin Management Plan.  Is that not surprising given that this plan will be the national water policy for the next 5 years, incorporating pricing policy and our water structure.  Now what could be more important than that?  

Buncrana Together in other articles will produce what we have been able to find out so far about the River Basin Management Plan, the Water Framework Directive and the importance of the 9.4 Exemption.

Incidentally do you know that the idea for a 'Water Commission' originated with Eoin O'Broin.  You don't? Well then look up this RTE This Week, Mar 13, 2016 interview. They all need a get-out clause, an official way to get out of their commitments and what better way than, with shrug of the shoulder, blame it on the commission.  Or if that isn't enough, all the good Euro supporters have to do is acquiesce to EU orders.

In the meantime while we drift in the doldrums, Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail are both accusing each other of political opportunism, see Irish Mirror 'Sinn Fein Accused of Pulling a PR Stunt, and the Irish Independent article 'Latest Bid to Scrap Water Charges'.  Eoin O'Broin and Barry Cowen go head to head.  

You know both are right. It's like the kettle calling the pot black, both are using the anti water charge's movement for all it's worth, for political party purposes and their own agendas.  I suppose we are accustomed to Fianna Fail manoeuvers.  They are at it for years.   But the motives and moves of Sinn Féin, the new kids in Dáil Éireann must be scrutinised because they, along with Right2Water trade unions and hand picked community enablers have put themselves at the helm of the anti water charges' movement.  

Patrick's question

Patrick question was "do you think we are going to be let down by Fianna Fáil, can we rely on them to fulfill their promises?"

Isn't that a good question?  Can anyone answer that? It is also a question that can be put to any of the establishment's political parties including Sinn Fein who all on paper support the anti water movement.  Is is a fair question and another one that could be asked is; do you follow your party's agenda or the wishes of the people?

Speaking about Sinn Féin and their partners the Right2Water Unions, how can we trust people who act in secrecy, who have usurped power, who never supported the Boycott campaign, who have orchestrated a putsch against the AAA and others, risking and splitting the nationwide campaign, who never organised a true democratic, nationwide, accountable organisation?

There are some of us who don't believe the hype, the photo shoot opportunities and Dáil grandstandings, the propaganda, the promises.  If they are genuine then let them prove it, not by silly Dáil party oriented motions whose result anyone could have foreseen or which only were only going to produce negative consequences for the campaign.  Let them prove it by joining the one thing that empowers the grassroots, the Boycott Campaign, something that we have done, we own and which resulted in the political situation today.  Let them prove it by actively supporting the Jobstown defendants, who are facing the wrath and might of the establishment. Let them prove it by owning their mistakes, listening to the grassroots and at last give people back the power by establishing a democratic and inclusive organisation.

Fianna Fáil on the other hand, as a party remained aloof, never being part of the anti water charge movement.  However, many of their supporters were.  Patrick's question is very relevant to them.  Are we going to be let down?  Given their political commitments and negative recent history, they have got a lot to prove. One way they could do this is by publishing what they are going to do about the 9.4 Exemption, the River Basin Management Plan, answering our questions.  After all it was the Fianna Fáil party who were in power in 2000, the time of the Water Framework Directive and it was they who negotiated the 9.4 exemption.