Mr Ogle’s statement agreeing with ‘excessive use’ was corroborated by Steve Fitzpatrick, CWU and David Gibney, Mandate, in February 2017 when they attended the Oireachtas Committee on Funding Domestic Water.
After being asked by Barry Cowen, Fianna Fáil, if Mr Ogle’s statement was the viewpoint of R2W, Mr Fitzpatrick’s reply was “it is the viewpoint”.
A good source of information about this controversy was the article 'FactCheck: Did Right2Water this week support charging for excessive water use?'
Right2Water’s metamorphosis to Right2Change
FliuchOff mentioned that only hand-picked people from R2W groups around the country were invited to central committee meetings in Dublin. We agree and our ‘ Donegal Critique’ article gives a blow by blow account. The chosen representatives were not elected locally but picked by R2W leadership and without a glimmer of shame these ‘community reps’, as they were referred to, were obliged by the leadership to undergo a week long introductory course organised by Unite trade union.
Fliuch called the move ‘Controlled Opposition’. Controlled Opposition, although referring to Government control, in the case of R2W, fairly describes how the organisation with the hidden hands of misdirection control manipulated and used the massive grassroots outrage, especially the Water Charge issue. This control can be traced to the leadership of R2W and in particular, Unite and Mandate Trade Unions and the larges party within R2W, Sinn Féin.
No matter the origins and aspirations of R2W, it descended quickly into a top-down mechanism hidden in euphemisms of grassroots bottom-up approaches, democracy and ‘unity’.
Brendan Ogle (Unite) and Dave Gibney (Mandate) assumed the role of organisers and main spokespersons. They became the acceptable face of Right2Water. Sinn Féin was the largest party involved and as such pulled a lot of wait.
It soon became obvious that with the R2W Trade Union central command in Dublin together with a heavy involvement by Sinn Féin in the R2W organisation that both agendas were running the show.
We complained several times to the trade union organisers about lack of democracy in R2W and the undue influence that Sinn Féin had. We complained about the level of organisation and commitment locally, believing that Sinn Féin were quite content with the odd march, media articles and photo shoots.
We have never received a reply from the R2W leadership to this day. We did have a conversation with some people involved in the R2W Dublin central group. We were told that Sinn Féin ‘was the biggest political party in R2W, so why should they not have the biggest say’. We were then accused of having ‘a vendetta against Sinn Féin’. 'Vendetta', we believe, is the wrong word, 'major criticism' would better describe our total dislike for the way the party machine operated.
As far as we know there has never been formal democratic structures or elections to roles within R2W. The informal structure led, inevitably, to factions taking over the organisation that left many fine people and groups out in the cold.
Right2Change well planned development
The level of control exerted by the Trade Unions was demonstrated by their well organised May Day R2W conference in Dublin in 2015. Again there were only invited guests from R2W groups, political parties and international organisations in attendance.
The groundwork was laid in this conference for the eventual attempted shift from Right2Water to the more political Right2Change organisation. There was a second conference in June to determine a policy platform ahead of the next General Election and submissions were invited. Right2Change was launched in Wynn’s hotel Dublin on Oct 2015
Again this was organised and run by R2W trade unions with invited guests. It was an attempt to direct the organisation into a more politically structured organisation , complete with it’s ‘Policy Principles for a Progressive Irish Government’ document. Political parties would sign up to an electoral strategy in the run-up to the General Election in February 2016 and agree a programme for Government.
An excellent criticism of the 2015 Right2Water May Conference was written by Cllr Brendan Young entitled 'Reflections on the May 1s Conference called by R2W unions'.
As one can imagine there was considerable confusion around the country as a consequence of these series of events. The much lauded grassroots around the country were kept out in the cold wondering what all the political scheming was about. To them it was simple; boycott the charges, don't recognise Irish Water, disrupt meter installation, civil unrest and put pressure on politicians and parties to back them. What they needed was a strong coordinated organisation, helping, advising, finding information, liaising with like-minded organisations.
However, what they got were factions and in fighting between unions and political parties, misdirection and propaganda. From June to October there was a concerted effort by the R2W trade union leadership and Sinn Féin to denigrate the ‘Left’ and whip them into supporting the R2C principles.
Planned attack on AAA or anyone that stepped out of line
Eoin Ó Broin’s published an article 'Reflections after Righ2Water progressive irish government conference' in which denigrates the 'revolutionary left, led by an alphabet soup of Leninist grouplets' and goes on to accuse them of 'their impossibilism has led to self-marginalisation'. Everyone knew who he was referring, of course, the Anti Austerity Alliance.
This was followed by Mary Lou McDonald in the Irish Times, Oct 27 2015, ‘Unforgivable’ for left wing parties not to join pact, says McDonald' putting pressure on other left wing groups to sign up to R2C broad policy platform and a transfer pact.
Mary Lou McDonald warmed that "it is unforgivable if other left wing groups did not grasp the opportunity of a broad policy platform and transfer pact."
Then Gerry Adams, on the same day as Mary Lou, also in the Irish Times, Oct 27, 2015, 'Sinn Féin to agree pact with left-wing parties and Independents' preempting discussions on electoral strategy in the week prior to a R2W conference and unilaterally putting forward Sinn Féin's proposal for an electoral pact. Well on paper anyway!
The AAA response to Sinn Féin’s media attacks with a reply on their website
“Early this week, as the Right2Change proposals were still being considered, Sinn Fein orchestrated a major intervention into the media aimed at ensuring that Right2Change would be primarily associated with the Sinn Fein brand – a ‘power grab’ to try to boost their prospects in the election.” Solidarity The Left Alternative
The controversy over 'election strategy' took another nose dive after R2C organisers sent out a circular asking all candidate demanding that R2W supporting parties and Independent candidates answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to three questions on policy.
At the R2C Conference at the end of Oct 2015, Brendan Ogle went through all replies individually.
This orchestrated procedure was, in our view, divisive and unnecessary. It was condescending, however, it got worse. When it came to the turn of the Anti Austerity Alliance Brendan Ogle seemed cynical towards it's reply. And he pointed to the written "NO"