Right2Water Tds' premature Victory claim - We were sold a pup?

by James Quigley & Enda Craig.

It is now over two weeks since a group of Right2Water TDs stood on the plinth at Leinster House on Thursday April 6th and gave a press release to the nation declaring ‘victory’ for Right2Water Ireland.

Only a week later campaigners throughout the country were in disarray and in shock after finding out that the ‘victory’ that was announced was based on a ‘Confidential Draft Report’ and that a subsequent 'final report' was passed by 13 votes to 7 in the Oireachtas Water Committee on April 11th. (Details and differences between both reports can be found Here )

Right2Water Ireland and supporting political parties immediately turned on Fianna Fáil, accused them of a double-cross and quickly instigated a media onslaught against them. No doubt Fianna Fáil broke their manifesto promises to the Irish people by voting in favour of the ‘final report’. But was this not inevitable and expected?

Rather than follow the herd and take swipes at the obvious Fianna Fáil villain, we think it might be more productive to look at events surrounding the leaking of the ‘Confidential Draft Report’ and the subsequent premature calls of ‘victory’. An elephant in the room that is highly revealing but has been overlooked in the orchestrated stampede of incrimination.

 

Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Fein “Our collective view is that the report which we are going to vote on later today is an enormous victory for the Right2Water campaign.”

 

Those in the wider 'Mass Water Campaign' are kept in limbo by leadership

Does Right2Water have a victory or not, that is the question? People can be forgiven if they can’t answer that because the confusion of whether we have a victory or not has not been cleared up. It could be that R2W and their supporting political parties are not sure themselves or it could be some kind of tactic or hidden agenda possibly to keep us in an state of anxiety.

In any case the masses are still being kept in limbo, in the dark,  out in the cold, not privy to the finer details of the political processes.  For the past year the movement have been mere spectators while the Right2Water TDs as Brendan Ogle says 'took the mantle and ran with it' .

 
 

Brendan Ogle Right2Water claims victory for the water movement in Ireland in a youtube video entitled 'Pow Wow with Dean Scurry #2 - Brendan Ogle & Frankie Gaffney'. The video was published on April 14, 2017, 3 days after a final Oireachtas Report by the Oireachtas Committee on Domestic Water Funding .

 
 

Cynical manipulation of the 'mass movement'

It is cynical how condescendingly praise is magnanimously bestowed on the 'mass water movement'.  Of course,  it is handy at times to occasionally dish out a little praise to keep the support of the hard grafting supporters who march up and down the roads.  However, it seems to be the case not to dish out too many honest facts. The masses might then become aware of the agenda of the political parties and indeed the Right2Water leadership.

Like a chip of the old establishment block, the leaders know best, give the public as little info as possible and feed them plenty of bullshit.

This type of manipulation was clearly demonstrated on April 6th and it’s aftermath when the Right2Water TDs, strutted forth in what looked liked a prearranged show of unity and announced ‘victory’ to the nation on the plinth outside Leinster House. The long campaign was at an end they assured us and each in turn got a bit of the limelight. They were, of course, magnanimous in their praise of the ‘mass movement.

Right2Water TDs strutting forth in 'Resevoir Dogs' styleon April 6th to the awaiting media.

A surprising and incredible Right2Water claim turned on its head

We were surprised and maybe, like many, a little elated about the Right2Water TDs' claim of 'victory. Firstly, having followed the Oireachtas Committee proceedings as best we could, we knew that any decision hung in the balance even if Fianna Fáil voted with R2W and secondly, having got a copy of the report online the day before,  our attention was drawn to a red water mark that stated ‘Confidential Draft Report’. We wondered how victory could be claimed on what was essentially a draft report.

The euphoria and surprise about victory was short lived.   By Thursday evening only a few hours after the press release by Right2Water TD’s the mainstream media informed us that voting on a final report was postponed until the following Tuesday.

Frantically over the next couple of days the hard reality began to hit us.  There was never any victory in the first place. How could there be since the only report circulating at the time was a ‘draft’ one and as it turned out not a final report. The mass movement were left hanging for over a week with neither a proper explanation as to why such a claim of victory was made in the first place and in public.

It is interesting to note here that having read the so called ‘draft report’ we had major reservations about even basing such a claim on it. You can read the differences between 'draft' and 'final' reports here .  Also you can read our critical article on the final report here
 criticism that can as easily be levied on the so called 'draft report'.

Also we were sure that in the unlikely event of a vote taken on this draft report, given the make up of the Oireachtas Committee and it’s previous voting pattern, it would not have been passed.

One of many questions sticks out a mile

Séamus Healy, Ind.  Also in the picture are Joan Collins, Ind4Change, Mick Barry, Solidarity and out in force Sinn Féin.

Why did the Right2Water TDs do what they did and ‘collectively’ lie in front of the nation.  A lie that has never been acknowledged, never mind explained by Right2Water or their supporting political parties, even two weeks later.

Our inquiriesabout why the press release was issued in the first place have got few responses other than a tirade of abuse leveled at Fianna Fáil and one possible constructive explanation from an inside source.  However, after consideration the explanation is not credible, i.e Right2Water TDs and those who planned the press release were trying to preempt Fianna Fáil taking credit for the 'victory'.

That explanation was an insult to our intelligence.  It seemed too simplistic and incredible that all those highly intelligent Right2Water TDs would take part in such an elaborate hoax just to jump in ahead to claim a fictitious victory.

In the absence of an honest explanation we have come up a couple of other scenarios.  Could the TDs be naive in thinking that they had won a victory, when they knew that the report was only in a 'draft' stage?.    Were they trying to drum up support for the R2W demonstration in Dublin two days later?  Were they trying to put pressure on Fianna Fáil or the Committee to pass the draft report?  We discounted all these scenarios.   The last point about putting political pressure on Fianna Fáil or the Oireachtas Committee needs a little elaboration.  Any Tom Dick and Jane would know to downplay their cards in any negotiation.  So why boast of a victory especially giving the opposition a heads up in the negotiations alerting them of your perceived 'victory'. 

Indeed none of these scenarios are believable, but to make a lie credible it is a good idea to base it on some truth and we find in this case when one considers we are dealing with political one-upmanship and political parties who are only interested in percentages and the next election, preempting Fianna Fáil and more importantly their subsequent vilification does indeed make sense.  It now all about the next election and Sinn Féin in particular at all out to bump up their ratings and bring down their arch rival. 

 

PS -  Victory, nothing of the sort, we were sold a pup

It is our opinion that the 'mass water movement' does not have a victory and in fact never had one.    Even in the unlikely event that the so called ‘Confidential Draft Report’ was passed, victory would have be a Pyrrhic one.  Another simple bit of reasoning about whether we have a victory or not, would be that if we hadhow could Fianna Fáil be blamed for the defeat.  Read our opinion about whether there was a victory or not here.  


 

 

Read

Water Referendum Bill - Are we being sold a pup?

“Anything less than declaring water to be a human right is selling us short.”
Fliuch, Nov 7, 2016

 The Thirty Fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership) (No. 2) Bill 2016  proposed by Joan Collins, Independent4Change went before the Dáil on November 09, 2016.  

The bill was not opposed by the Government and consequently was referred to an Oireachtas Select Committee, the date and make- up of which is unknown.

It has subsequently come to our attention that there is disquiet about the wording of this amendment bill and it's scope.

Buncrana Together agrees with a critical article published by fliuch.org, Nov 7, 2012 in which the editor asks those responsible to think again.  We produce this article in full below. 

We hope that there is still time to amend the proposed amendment bill and we urge all TDs involved to consider what Fliuch has advised. 

 

If we are going amend our Constitution let us do it right.

 

People are not thinking this through

The first time that many people in Ireland, even those within the broad Anti Water Charges movement, were made aware of the wording of this constitutional amendment bill or indeed that it was going before the Dáil, was when it appeared in the national media a few days prior to it being proposed in the Dáil. 

For instance it was reported on Nov 07, 2016 in an article by Fliuch, a major anti Irish Water Ltd campaign group and media outlet, entitled 'Referendum on the Ownership of Water'

Fliuch's article reads

“There’s an article on The Journal website this morning about Joan Collins and her bill looking for a referendum, ( https://www.thejournal.ie/irish-water-referendum-2-3063361-Nov2016/ )

The wording of the referendum goes like this:

The government shall be collectively responsible for the protection, management and maintenance of the public water system. The government shall ensure in the public interest that this resource remains in public ownership and management.

Now. This is admirable but fatally flawed. Firstly, the proposal is to amend Article 28 – The Government. Article 10 actually addresses the issue of natural resources so we’re looking at the wrong section from the start.

Secondly, ‘public ownership’ is a very loose term. A utility could be publicly owned but still introduce punitive charges. In fact, if Irish Water Ltd was fully nationalised it might actually be able to use Revenue to collect water charges.

People are not thinking this through . Irish Water Ltd could theoretically remain in existence as a Water Authority supervising the councils and enforcing standards but the current wording of the proposed amendment to the constitution could actually make the situation worse.

If you’re going to amend the constitution with regard to water then you need to focus on Article 10 and you need to declare water, and access to clean drinking water, to be a human right (an affordable human right might even be acceptable) but anything less than declaring water to be a human right is selling us short."

Joan Collins TD

Joan Collins TD

Full Participation of Irish Citizens

It is surprising that this article seems to have been ignored within the anti water charges movement in general?  However, it is not too late and we hope all supporting TDs will read and heed this important article.   The public need to be part of the decision process, especially in this constitutional matter.  They need to be fully informed and listened to.

If this principle is followed then the chances of a properly worded referendum succeeding will be greatly improved. Why can this not be done?  After all there is a majority in the Dáil who have expressed a commitment to abolish Irish Water Ltd and Water Charges.  

It should not be the prerogative of political parties, trade unions or indeed some in the Right2Water group particularly those in ‘The Pale’ to dictate the agenda.  The people of Ireland are willing and capable of taking decisions when it comes to their future,  protecting our rights and natural resources ( see Huge majority support Irish Water Referendum ).

Dáil Referendum Debate

In the Dáil debate, Nov 9, 2016, Fianna Fail’s Barry Cowen said

"his party would vote in favour of a referendum with proviso that it be ironed out at next stage." 

We hope, in this next stage that all deputies take Fliuch's advise into consideration.

 It is worth noting Deputy Thomas Byrne’s contribution,

“People are suspicious of the entire political system and they ask all sorts of obscure questions whenever, for example, a treaty is put forward at European level. People wonder if there is a hidden agenda in putting this forward and I have had to assure them on Facebook that there is not. Let us work together on this in the spirit in which it was brought forward and in which many of us have worked to promote this idea over a number of years, and let us do it properly. We have seen a Government proposal amended in this Oireachtas, when a flaw was spotted in the process of a constitutional referendum. There was toing and froing in the case of the eighth amendment and I am sure Deputy Joan Collins is not happy with the wording that was agreed. There was a history to it, however, so this has to be done really carefully. Nevertheless, we are supportive of the Bill and of retaining water and the sewerage system in public ownership.”

Possibly Deputy Mick Wallace hit the nail on the head when he said

“Like most people in Ireland, I do not think the water service should be privatised, but, sadly, unless we get rid of Irish Water, it might as well be privatised because that is where we are. For want of a better term, Irish Water is another version of the HSE and literally outsourcing just about anything it has on its table. It is carving up the country. We have Aecom in the Dublin area, EPS in the Cork area, Veolia in Kilkenny and Glan Agua in Galway. Between the four of them, they are literally taking over water provision in Ireland."

United Nations

Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitiation, page 51 states

While international momentum toward broad-based support for the rights to water and sanitation is essential, the actual implementation of the rights depends heavily on national legal frameworks, anchored by constitutional and statutory provisions. In turn, these laws must give voice to national policies, and aspire to achieving universal realisation of the right, and be operationalised through a robust system of rules and regulations emanating from government institutions and, ideally, national water and sanitation regulators.

The strongest domestic legal frameworks exist where explicit recognition of the rights to water and sanitation is included in the national constitution. As the principal legal instrument describing the relationship between the State and residents, as well as the roles and responsibilities of each, such recognition underscores a national commitment to realising the rights for all people and ensures their lasting inclusion in domestic law. Moreover, the recognition provides a critical reference point for policymakers, government ministries, judicial bodies, and civil society, all of which aim to influence policy, set standards and hold the relevant actors accountable. At present, many countries have recognised the right to water in their constitutions.”

Sources :
Full Dáil debate http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/
Fliuch article - Referendum on Ownership of Water
Complete amendment and stages

Download amendment
UN Water and Sanitation
Irish Constitution