This will be the last post I will put up until the referendum is over. At least. This referendum has been difficult for many people, indeed for the country as a whole, but it has been necessary. I will be voting YES!
Everything about this debate is difficult. Firstly, in Catholic conservative Ireland the role and influence of conservative church thinking on the very DNA of the state and its people cannot ever be under-estimated. It permeates everything. It makes this a particularly difficult nation among European nations to discuss this issue.
Secondly the language of the debate is corrupted from the outset. The ‘Pro-Life’ moniker assumes the other side must be ‘anti-life’ even while key advocates of the ‘pro-life’ doctrine itself are responsible for many deaths of women and children, not to mention their abuse and enslavement.
On the other side the ‘pro-choice’ label presumes those on the other side are inherently disrespectful of women’s choices, even though many on the ‘pro-life’ side are women themselves. The labels teach us nothing. They are about spin – often even abuse and accusation – but not substance.
People are Pro-life
I have never met anyone who is anti-life. This is my starting point in considering this issue. I want to see as few abortions as possible. And I believe everybody I have discussed this issue with feels the same. The question isn’t should we have as few abortions as possible, the question is how? And the evidence is that the 8th Amendment has utterly failed in this regard. So what works?
Early in the campaign I wrote an article for Unite which showed how, in Europe, the nations with the most liberal abortion laws have the fewest abortions. In the Netherlands abortion is an actual right yet the country has one of the lowest abortion rates anywhere with 8.6 abortions per 1000 pregnancies.
In Switzerland the law was changed by referendum in 2002 to allow abortion on request in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This new law resulted in less abortions with just 6.8 abortions per 1000 pregnancies. Belgium and Germany have liberal abortion laws and similar statistics.
To put those figures in context the United Kingdom, which has a less liberal abortion regime, has 17.5 abortions per 1000 pregnancies and the annual average worldwide rate is 28 per 1000 pregnancies.
How can this be explained?
Well in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany the combination of enlightened and timely sex education, the free availability of contraception and a health system based on women’s healthcare – rather than church doctrine – reduces abortion rates.
Finally on this point the notion that a No vote will stop abortions and ‘keep them out of Ireland’ is one of the greatest examples of a ‘head in the sand’ attitude it is possible to have.
Abortions are happening. In every county, town, street and community. You know someone who has had an abortion. Surely an enlightened approach that cared for those women and offered real and genuine support has a greater chance of limiting the number taking place? That’s what happens elsewhere in Europe.
People are Pro-Choice
It is a very rare person indeed that wants to deny a couple whose baby cannot survive outside the womb the choice of dealing with that tragedy in Ireland. It is a very rare person indeed who wants to force those people to go to England or elsewhere, and have the remains of their non viable child posted home in a jiffy bag.
Those people do exist but I cannot accept they are anything other than hardcore fundamentalists devoid of human caring. The vast majority want Irish people not to be put through that. If you are one of them only a yes vote will give such parents the choices they are entitled to.
I respect every woman’s choice faced with a crisis pregnancy. I have never had an abortion, clearly, or being involved in such a decision. But as the father of two daughters who knows what lies ahead?
I would not want to, or be allowed to, impose my view of abortion on my own daughters if they ever faced a crisis pregnancy. And, whatever decisions they would make, I would support them. If that is my role, and the limit of my role, within my own family how much less right have I to deny such choices to any other women?
What is it about us Irish that so many of us think we not only have rights to make decisions for ourselves and sometimes with those close to us, but that we can make them for people who we have no connection with whatsoever?
What any woman does when faced with a crisis pregnancy is none of my business. And on Friday I will vote to make it none of my business. That means voting YES!
Constitution Vs Legislation
A lot of people are saying that ‘We can’t trust politicians on this matter’ – OK, I don’t trust politicians either, that’s why I want to change them. But at least they are our politicians and we can aspire to change them. But at the moment, because of the 8th, it is politicians in Britain and countries like the Netherlands that we are ‘trusting’ to provide for Irish women in crisis.
That is wrong.
Our Constitution is a profoundly catholic document approved by the Vatican and dating back to 1937. It was brought about by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid and Eamon De Valera among others and it was a document that declared the victory of the conservative 1922 counter-revolution over the 1916 egalitarian vision of Connolly and the signatories to the proclamation.
The 1937 Constitution effectively emboldened a church controlled state that abused, imprisoned, enslaved, sold, murdered and buried countless women and babies in a state of shame.
It is not the place for modern healthcare for women and babies. Women have been treated appallingly in this nation since it’s inception. Right up to the current day. McQuaid and De Valera did not trust women. Or value women.
On Friday I will go to the polling station as a 50 year old citizen of a more hopeful nation thinking not of the abusers of the past, but of the hopes and dreams for a brighter more humane nation.
As I do so I will think back to Sheila Hodgers, Amy Walsh who has been a heroine in this campaign, Savita who would be alive now if abortion was permitted before she developed sepsis, and to women like Michelle Harte who died and others who may have cancer right now but whose treatment is being put on hold because they are pregnant.
I will think of them, maybe shed a tear for them, and vote that no such abuse ever happens to either of my daughters, or to any other Irish woman, ever again.
Vote Yes Repeal.
Brendan Ogle is writing here in a personal capacity.
From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Josepha Madigan, who will run the government’s Yes campaign for the forthcoming referndum on The Eighth Amendment; Brendan Ogle
In a TV debate with Joan Burton recently, the former leader of the Irish Labour Party made a point that is of interest in terms of how politics is conducted in Ireland, and elsewhere, today.
The debate was about the direction of Irish politics and where a real alternative to address inequality and deprivation might emerge from. But that is for another day. For now, what interests me about this particular debate is something Ms Burton said towards the end of it.
I had set out some of the issues that I think need to be addressed to build an alternative. I had also set out my view of the way in which Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments, throughout our history as an independent state, have looked after the few at the expense of the many.
While agreeing on the importance of the issues I set out, Ms. Burton bemoaned the fact that I thought the Labour Party could not deliver this alternative.
In fact she, quite legitimately, listed a range of social reforms that the Labour Party have supported going back decades.
She spoke about divorce, contraception, the equality referendum and even Repeal, and held them up as issues that the Labour Party have gotten behind as evidence of that party’s worth and usefulness. It would be churlish to debate the extent to which this one party played a role in these changes.
That would be a largely subjective analysis anyway. Whatever about that, I readily acknowledge that these issues hold within them evidence of real progress on what I call ‘social’ issues. Changes in these areas, and public support for those changes, is social liberalism in action.
Just how significant progress on these issues is was demonstrated to me at a recent event in Ballymun in which I participated.
This was a ‘cross community’ event with representatives of communities in Dublin and of Northern Ireland’s unionist community.
It was striking to note how the new right to gay marriage here, and even having a referendum on repeal of the 8th Amendment, is very far ahead of any similar legislative or constitutional changes in the North around LBGTQ rights, abortion rights and a woman’s right to bodily autonomy.
Yes, despite decades of often repressive and even abusive social conservatism here, we are indeed moving forward and seeing real progress in some of these areas and potential progress in others. This is positive stuff.
But what about change in our economic direction? It is clear that changes in the area of personal rights like these are absolutely no indicator of fundamental change in how society is structured economically, and in whose interests it is so structured.
In that respect, not only are we not making progress, but we are going backwards at considerable speed. While socialism liberalism has seen slow but steady progress over the last number of decades here, economic conservatism ‘rules OK’!
You don’t really need a very scientific analysis to prove this.
So clear is the growing divide between those that have, and those who can only dream, that a very short trip down memory lane is all that is needed to emphasise the point.
In 1992, when I first threw a mailbag into a train carriage on Platform 2 in Dundalk Station, the Dublin porter who caught it recognised a new face on staff and uttered the now almost implausible words:
‘Well done, you have just got yourself a good stable pensionable job.’
Now, we’ll leave aside any assessment of the CIE pension scheme and how ‘good’ it is, or otherwise, to make a wider point. How many of our young people are now getting good, stable, pensionable jobs?
The next time Richard Bruton and his spin machine make an appearance telling you about all the jobs we now have, just remember that we need them all, and more, because for the first time I can remember we actually have people working three and four jobs who still can’t pay their bills.
I am old enough to remember something called ‘a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’. Economic conservatism has destroyed that quaint notion for most. And that isn’t all it has destroyed.
Healthcare? We had a hospital in Dundalk then too. A busy one, that you got into if you were sick, and waiting on a trolley for a bed was just unheard of. Oh yes readers, before the current phase of economic conservatism commodified everything including our health, we had a public health system that almost worked!
We had roofs over their heads too, all of us. Public and private housing was ample and affordable, and homeless children were just not an issue. Hotels had tourists in them back then, not families with nowhere else to go, ‘living’ four to a room.
Do you want a measure of how economically conservative we now are as a nation? If we want our children to have a steady job, a home, healthcare when they are sick, and a pension when they retire, we are now considered radicals.
Expecting the most basic and rudimentary needs to be met, and even expecting rights – decent work, healthcare and a roof over our heads – is now considered unreasonable and radical, luxuries unobtainable and unaffordable for vast chunks of our population who are not viewed as having any right to expect them.
It is, in fact, the absence of these basics that is now considered normal, even acceptable and to be expected.
That is the triumph of economic conservatism.
So back to Joan Burton? Maybe. But not just her or Irish Labour. No, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are up to their necks in this.
Consider our Taoiseach. He is a gay man who put himself at the centre of the ‘Yes Equality’ debate by strategically declaring his sexuality on the airwaves and campaigning vigorously and openly for a ‘Yes’ vote in that referendum. Good for him. He is socially liberal. And he is now espousing a strong ‘Yes Repeal’ position on the abortion issue.
I agree while him fully on that too. I am socially liberal, always have been, and I think that people should be able to live their lives as they see fit. They should be able to make choices about their bodies, adults should be free and able to express their sexuality as they see fit provided it is legal, to separate and divorce in a breakdown situation, remarry if they choose – as I have myself – and basically make personal choices about how they live their lives.
These choices should be freed from the judgements of others, and not imposed upon by a religious doctrine that they may not agree with through the law or constitution. I am glad that I now live in a country where our Taoiseach shares my view on these issues.
But none of these issues challenge the economic doctrine of neoliberalism one iota.
None of them require Ireland to stop being a sordid little tax haven, or to tax wealth and capital at something like, eh, maybe the European average?
None of them require us to establish a single-tier health system based on the health needs of our citizens, not the profit-driven needs of private shareholders.
None of them require us to abolish effective zero-hour contracts in the workplace and strengthen our labour and union laws, or address the gender pay gap.
None of them require us to engage in a massive programme of public housing construction, the only possible solution to our current housing emergency.
None of them require us to put the needs of our own sustainable small and medium business sectors above the suffocating and unsustainable demands of multi-national speculative capital.
None of them require us to close the gap between the rich and the poor by one Euro.
Socially liberal economic conservatives don’t really care what you do in your private life, you see, and they will often support your right to equality on social issues because they can.
Because it doesn’t challenge their far-right neoliberal hegemony. It doesn’t challenge or threaten a model of economic structuring of society that daily delivers the most obscene economic inequality since slavery, that turns basic needs into pipe dreams or luxuries, and that actually has people dying on our streets for the want of a roof over their head.
Socially liberal economic conservatives may agree with your rights on social issues, but if every economic policy they espouse and impose results in keeping you relatively poor, and further embeds an already unsustainable wealth divide that is leading to social breakdown, whose side do you really think they are on?
Brendan Ogle is a Right2Water Co-Ordinator, Unite’s Political, Education and Community co-ordinator. and blogs every Thursday here
From top: Simon Coveney and Boris Johnson in Brexit talks last November: Brendan Ogle
I suppose I better write something about Brexit. In fact, in the months to come we are all going to have to focus a lot on Brexit and I will return to the issue on many occasions. But I have been somewhat reluctant to write on it to date.
My reluctance does not stem from any lack of interest in the matter, still less from any lack of appreciation of the massive ramifications of current Brexit ‘negotiations’. No. My reluctance here stems from two things.
One is the sheer breadth of the issues and conversations that need to not only happen, but to manifest themselves in a whole series of trade agreements, customs arrangements and treaties. And the second is that, in having that discussion, it is necessary to do so in a way which may seem critical of the parties involved for, to date, the ‘debate’ at a political level has been somewhat surreal.
Let’s begin today by looking at the main positions of the protagonists so far.
They appear to be, in no particular order, the European Union, the Government of Britain and Northern Ireland, the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland, and the government in the Republic of Ireland.
The reality however is that this issue will have lasting and profound effects on the people, the citizens, of Ireland, Britain and the European Union. So how well are those people being served in the process to date?
The European Union
I well remember the night of the Brexit count. A knife edge vote that swung this way, then that, and resulted in a very tight, but profound, outcome – Britain had decided to leave the European Union.
The relationship between the European Union and Britain had always been fraught, and not just from Britain’s side either. Many now forget that Britain’s initial applications to join the then European Economic Community (EEC) in 1963 and 1967 were vetoed by France.
Charles De Gaulle explained this by suggesting that the British economy was ‘incompatible with Europe’, and that he suspected that Britain retained a deep seated hostility to the pan-European project.
It was Edward Heath’s Conservative Government that ultimately brought Britain into the project in 1972. An uneasy ‘union’ was born. When Britain voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016, it was but the latest of many trysts that country had had with the notion.
In fact, there has hardly been an election in over 40 years there where Europe wasn’t a massively controversial issue. There had even been a previous referendum that voted to ‘Remain’ in 1975, and of course Britain also refused to join the single currency project.
But whether the European Union likes it or not, the massive continent-wide support for a peaceful alliance of nations creating a social project of mutual benefit to citizens is simply not translating into widespread public support for what is now a militarised economic union pursuing aggressive policies of neoliberalism, and behaving in an increasingly anti-democratic manner.
One would have hoped that, in addition to the understandable frustration at EU level with the downright dishonesty that characterised the Brexiteers’ campaigning, the EU would have found this a moment for necessary critical self-analysis too.
For is there not widespread public concern across much of Europe with the current direction of travel? For example, are people not tiring of an elected European Parliament being routinely ignored by an unelected Commission?
Is the EU not increasingly looking like economic imperialism where banks have simply replaced tanks?
And does the 2008 economic catastrophe and the resultant bullying by the EU of Greece, Cyprus and – whisper it – Ireland not sound some type of alarm about whether a ‘one size fits all’ economic model is not just being used as a big stick to punish smaller, less, powerful, nations?
Put bluntly, is the EU currently developing a deeper union-wide democracy, or eroding it? An EU analysis of these questions and suitable reforms that go beyond ‘brit-bashing’ is surely required as even a minimal response to Brexit.
Britain Votes to Leave
Notwithstanding my criticisms of the European Union, the fact is that Britain did not vote to leave it in order to swing back towards socialism, or an alternative to neoliberalism. On the contrary, much of the ‘leave’ campaign was constructed by the far right using nationalism and race hate as electoral battering rams.
Brexiteers like Bill Cash, who campaigned within the Tory party for a referendum for years and who ensnared a gullible David Cameron into conceding one, are overtly on the ‘far right’ of even neoliberal Europe. They sit on their seats, and in their estates of privilege, knowing that they are well-protected from the economic effects of their jingoistic ravings.
That massive sections of what used to be the working (as in, they used to have jobs and industry to work in) class fell for blunt empty nationalism is a sadly predictable consequence of the hollowing-out of industrial Britain, not only by Thatcher, but by her successor Tony Blair and his ‘New Labour’.
Unfortunately almost two years on, while the EU finger wags furiously, the debate in Britain continues to be conducted in these terms. Just listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg – if you can bear to.
With a Prime Minister now utterly lacking in authority, and a riven Tory party steering the ship of state headlong into a glacier, one can only hope that Labour get into power soon and that their recent sensible positioning regarding the required customs union is a portent that sense may yet prevail.
Here’s an interesting thought. Do you suspect that even Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney now wish to see Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street?
While all this goes on, reports suggest that it is the people of Northern Ireland who will suffer economically more than any others post-Brexit. These reports make no differentiation between Orange and Green. They do not differentiate between those who support marriage equality and those who don’t, or those who want an Irish language act and those who don’t.
And the economic effects of Brexit on the people of Northern Ireland will not differentiate between those who admire Arlene Foster, or those who think she has serious ethical questions to answer about the Renewable Heat Incentive overspend.
The DUP have overplayed their hand. Theresa May cannot deliver an open border in Ireland without a customs union, and the EU cannot agree to one without the other. To suggest otherwise is to conduct the debate in an atmosphere of unreality.
What is more, it is an unreality that everyone is aware of yet is playing along with anyway. And, if the DUP’s ‘real’ position turns out to be that they could well live with a ‘hard’ border despite their protestations to the contrary, that must be seen in the context of Sinn Féin having viewed Brexit in the exact opposite way. Since the day of the vote, they have viewed Brexit as a sort of ‘trojan horse’ for a border poll as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement.
The DUP and SF have so far not managed to work together, even on Brexit alone, in the common interests of the citizens in Northern Ireland as a whole. Such a political consensus has never been more necessary, and it is to be hoped for everyone’s sake in the coming months that it is not as remote as it seems.
Republic of Ireland government
Things are not as good as certain sources would have us believe in the Republic either. To begin with, what was presented as an ‘agreement’ on the Irish aspect in phase one is nothing of the sort. In addition, I can’t get my head around a conundrum which has been on my mind for almost two years now.
What is going to happen if (I think it may be a ‘when’) what emerges is as follows – we either have border-free, tariff-free trade with the EU, or, we have border-free, tariff-free trade with Britain?
But we can’t have both.
What happens when the fantasy notion that everyone in this mess can have everything they want, simultaneously with their neighbours having the exact opposite, dissolves in the smoke and mirrors that it is? We in the South have not had a single discussion that I have heard about that potential outcome.
We haven’t even positioned ourselves between both sides as we ought to have, instead lining up with the EU in a partisan manner which may yet come back to haunt is. After all, if the hard border we are determined to avoid happens anyway, it will be on this island that it will happen.
And, when it comes to installing it and protecting the needs of the EU big guns, don’t be surprised if – just like after the crash of 08 and the austerity that followed – it is the EU which is again punishing us to save the overall project.
Brendan Ogle is a Right2Water Co-Ordinator, Unite’s Political, Education and Community co-ordinator. and blogs every Thursday here
From top: Bertie Ahern in 2008; Project Ireland 2040 launch at the Institute of Technology, Sligo last month; Brendan Ogle
Brendan Ogle writes:
I’m going to say something good about the Irish media here, so note the time and date because it doesn’t happen often.
Insofar as the media has a propensity to become a participant in political affairs here, as opposed to simply reporting and commentating on them, recent developments around the government’s Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) give cause for even more concern than usual.
But it also has to be said that the assiduous work in exposing the manipulation of media for political advantage by some journalists warrants acknowledgment and gratitude from those of us who worry constantly about the state of media in Ireland.
In particular, the work of Hugh O’Connell in, and of, the Sunday Business Post has been really important for the democratic process in recent weeks. Others such as the Sunday Time’s Justine McCarthy and Ellen Coyne, of The Times Ireland edition, also deserve special mention.
Before looking at the SDU and how your taxes are being used by the Taoiseach and Fine Gael to advance the cause of the Taoiseach and Fine Gael, it is important to look at this issue in a wider context.
Listening to the leader of Fianna Fáil in the past week one could be mistaken for believing that the use of the media by those running the country to further their own ends began last summer, and that he and his party had no ‘form’ in this regard. But we know otherwise.
A TV3 documentary ‘Print And Be Damned’ aired in 2013 and in it Anne Harris, formerly of The Sunday Independent, shed light on the disgraceful run up to the 2007 general election.
The events are also set out in an article by the Irish Examiner’s Michael Clifford aptly headed ‘Bertie And The Sindo : An Affront To Democracy’, and they provide an invaluable insight into the shocking and sordid behaviour of then Taoiseach, and head of Fianna Fáil, Bertie Ahern.
At the time Ahern was up to his neck trying to explain wads of cash up his chimney, massive wins on the horses, why a sitting Taoiseach didn’t have a bank account, and much else about his personal and party finances at the Mahon Tribunal.
Then one day he bumped into TheSunday Independent editor Aengus Fanning in the Shelbourne Hotel. It was April 2007, and after 5 years of government and personal scandal Ahern was running out of time, and rope.
There was much interest and speculation about exactly when the election would be but rather than just ask, Fanning took a less direct route with the sitting Taoiseach.
He advised Ahern that The Sunday Independent had a massive file on matters pertaining to Ahern and the Tribunal and that it was ‘explosive stuff’. Would the Taoiseach happen to have any stories that he might supply the paper with? They’d be particularly interested in the election date?
Ahern didn’t respond directly but a few weeks later, on a Saturday – print day for Sunday papers – he called the paper with some news. He was going to dissolve the government and trigger an election, he would be going to Aras an Uachtarain the following morning, but not ‘until after you’re off the press with the first edition’.
By this means the dissolution of the 29th Dáil was announced, unusually, on a Sunday, and it is said even many of Ahern’s cabinet colleagues didn’t know about it before the Sindo announced it. Ms Harris also confirmed that, thereafter, Ahern gave many stories exclusively to The Sunday Independent, something that became obvious to readers over time.
In that election Fianna Fáil managed to return to office thanks to a Green Party coalition. They did so despite the impending and unprecedented financial catastrophe that they had sown in previous years, and the frankly embarrassing revelations about the financial dealings of the Taoiseach that dominated the early part of the election campaign. No matter. Ahern was elected Taoiseach for a third time, much to the approval of The Sunday Independent.
Micheál Martin was a cabinet member (Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment) when this happened and I wondered again last week, did he as a Minister know the extent to which his party leader was manipulating the media for party advantage, or did he read about it over his cornflakes in the Sunday Independent?
So what has changed under Fine Gael?
Well we have a first-time Taoiseach, shiny and new and full of vim. I’m sure he has a bank account, I doubt he puts cash up a chimney, and if he has ever darkened a bookies I’d be a tad surprised.
But he sure as hell seems to share Fianna Fáil’s penchant for using the media for the advancement of himself, and his party. And in his case he is doing it by spending literally millions of Euro of taxpayer’s money telling those very taxpayers how great they all are.
We are being propagandised by government at our own expense.
The SDU was one of Leo Varadkar’s first initiatives on becoming Taoiseach, headed by PR guru John Concannon. The unit has 14 staff and an annual budget of €5m.
From the outset, a suspicious public have worried that the role of the unit is to use taxpayers’ money to ‘spin’ like hell in the interests of Fine Gael and Varadkar, as opposed to providing essential public information about government services in an efficient and cost-effective manner, its claimed role.
That claim now looks very shoddy given the furore created by the manner in which the government strategy plan ‘Ireland 2040’ has been communicated.
Leaving aside the massive reheating of policies and announcements long made and yet to be delivered in the plan, it turns out that newspapers countrywide were paid for ‘advertorials’ made to look like media news and commentary.
Some were even adorned with Fine Gael election candidates, grinning as only election candidates can grin, in key marginal constituencies. ‘Vote for me, look what I’m getting for you’ seemed to be the message. And all paid for by us, the taxpayer.
Varadkar has attempted to defend this by arguing unconvincingly that the unit operates at arms-length from government. He repeatedly states this.
This is unconvincing because, thanks to the Sunday Business Post persisting with questions about the unit, the Information Commissioner forced Varadkar’s Department to release documents that say the very opposite.
One such document, written by John Concannon himself, makes it clear that the effectiveness of the SCU:
‘will be dependent on regular structured access to senior government decision-makers and processes’.
So much for ‘arms-length’! Caught out, Varadkar has now ordered a review of the unit that, hopefully, will lead to its abolition.
Fine Gael have led government(s) here since 2011, despite the fact that in 2016 less than 1/5 of those entitled to vote for them did so. Over 80% of the electorate rejected the party of government.
And Bertie Ahern was elected Taoiseach three times, despite massive issues about his finances, and cronyism, and following policies pursued throughout his tenure that utterly wrecked a nation. Yet Varadkar is Taoiseach and Ahern is said to have ambitions to be our President!
The media play a key role in these events and the extent to which, even in the digital age, traditional media shape public attitudes should not be underestimated. That media, by and large, is there to defend the vested interests of the rich and powerful. That is why it’s the rich and powerful that own and control it.
In that context the relationship that government – and our Taoiseach – has with the media, and how the communications we pay for are used, should always be distanced, professional and ethical.
When those relations result in media acting as puppets of government or a Taoiseach (whether it is paid or unpaid puppetry) it is, as the Examiner rightly called it in 2013 ‘An Affront To Democracy’.
The Strategic Communications Unit should be abolished.
Brendan Ogle is a Right2Water Co-Ordinator, Unite’s Political, Education and Community co-ordinator. and blogs every Thursday here
The Irish Water propaganda unit are in full flow again. Never an outfit to waste a good crisis, last week;s freeze has been turned into an opportunity to perpetuate the ‘wasteful consumer’ lies through an all-too willing media.
Yes folks the water privatisation quest continues.
I don’t believe a word of it.
The expert commission on water found zero evidence that the Irish wasted water and did in fact confirm Right2Water’s research that households used significantly less than our U.K. neighbours.
What waste was found was, not surprisingly, related to leaks.
Of course there was more water used last week. A ‘spike’, as they call it. That’s because, hmm let me have a think about this…
… EVERYBODY WAS AT HOME!
More food cooked, kettles boiled, showers run, maybe some ‘waster’ had a bath (hang on for a confession), kids out playing in the snow coming in rotten dirty. It’s not complicated.
Then of course we know the system leaks like a colander anyway, so imagine what the freezing weather has done to the leaks?
And yes, algae has arrived early in the Vartry reservoir [Roundwood, County Wicklow] so that is causing issues too.
There was similar weather across the U.K. last week. Not only did it not lead to interminable news coverage of it but guess what, it’s caused problems with their water system too.
Yet nobody is blaming the citizens over there. No privatisation agenda you see, they already did it. With disastrous results for consumers.
So I’m not buying a word of this nonsense about wasters running taps.
But here’s that confession:
‘Bless me Irish Water for I sinned,
It’s been three months since my last bath
But last Sunday I had one
Because I wanted one
I didn’t even need one
I just wanted one
And I loved it
The Radox smelled lovely
For these and all my baths I am very sorry’
Brendan Ogle is a Right2Water Co-Ordinator, Unite’s Political, Education and Community co-ordinator. and blogs every Thursday here.
You may recall RTÉ One’s report from Monday, by John Kilraine – about the former headquarters of the Unite trade union, on Merrion Square in Dublin, which has been vacant for three years.
It was reported:
“…a trust connected to the trade union Unite applied to be exempted from social housing for a development at its former headquarters…while one of its top officials was planning the occupation of Apollo House…”.
The report went on to say Brendan Ogle, of Unite and the Home Sweet Home movement, gained access to Apollo House a dayafter Unite’s application for a Social Housing Exemption Cert was granted by Dublin City Council.
Mr Ogle subsequently wrote a lengthy post on Facebook concerning the RTÉ report.
Further to this…
Yesterday evening, Mr Ogle spoke to Matt Cooper on Today FM about the matter, during which a statement from RTE was read out.
A transcript of the interview:
Matt Cooper: “Brendan Ogle, Home Sweet Home organiser, also the Unite trade union’s education and policy officer has joined us in studio today. Jimmy Kelly, the regional organiser, of course, was with us on yesterday’s programme to respond to the story which RTE broke yesterday about the former Unite headquarters in Merrion Square being vacant for the last three years. Leading to questions as to why it could not have been used as a venue to look after the homeless people rather than occupying Apollo House in Dublin city centre. Brendan Ogle, can you understand why people would ask that, and regard it as a legitimate question?”
Brendan Ogle: “No.”
Cooper: “Why not?”
Ogle: “I can’t understand why a workers’ organisation and volunteers and members of it, which is an non-profit organisation, a friendly society organisation, comes under attack for helping homeless people. I can’t understand it.”
Cooper: “Attack. Why do you say attack?”
Ogle: “Well, because, this is not journalism. We were approached by RTE at lunchtime, Saturday afternoon. I was approached, notwithstanding the fact I had nothing to do with property. I don’t even own one, nevermind having anything to do with it. And it was a very complex question. And Jimmy Kelly, who you’ve just mentioned – the leader of Unite in Ireland – sought, until today, until Tuesday, to provide RTE will full facts. Bearing in mind, Matt, that it was Saturday afternoon, if we’d got contacted on Monday, or even on Friday, we might have been able to do something.”
Cooper: “Sorry, had you not anticipated at any stage, over the last month or so, that somebody might come along and say to you, ‘hang on a second, you’re very involved in this campaign, you’re leading it down in Apollo House and, as it happens, you have a large building in Merrion Square which has been vacant for three years. If you’re concerned about the homeless, why didn’t you actually use that as a venue to house people?”
Ogle: “No, I didn’t anticipate it. I anticipated that elements of the media were up to no good when they were standing outside the gates of Apollo House, offering homeless people, going in and out, money to tell stories about what was going on in there. That was going on the whole time. So I appreciate…”
Cooper: “I have to say, I know nothing about that…I don’t know which organisations may have done that.”
Ogle: “Absolutely, and actually it wasn’t RTE either, it was print outlets. But I watched it, and I watched it on several occasions. So I anticipated a dirty tricks campaign because any time anybody stands up and puts there head above the parapet, be it the union or be it me or be it a long list of other people in this country – and stands up for people who need help – then agendas quickly set in…”
Cooper: “Hang on, why is it, no, no, no, hold on a second, why is it a dirty trick to ask what many people regard as a legitimate question as to why you did not use the property in Merrion Square?”
Ogle: “Well, first of all, it’s not a legitimate question because we went into Apollo House, very clearly stating – first of all, we were asked could we get into Apollo House by the artists. We’ve stated that, on the record, a number of times. So that loop was left out of the questions. Second of all, we went into Apollo House because it was a Nama property. We already own, and I’m not going to discuss it again – I will if you want, if you’ve the time – but the point about it is: it was a Nama property. As it turns out we were quite entitled to look for time to look into this. When we looked for time to look into it, we discovered that the so-called obligations do not apply at all because there’s only four units planned in Merrion Square. And [former environment minister] Alan Kelly changed the requirements to nine. So we can’t give someone .04 of a unit. And then we discovered today – and John Kilraine could have been told this, if he’d waited till… well I could have said I don’t know why the story was broken yesterday. I know exactly why the story was broken yesterday…”
Cooper: “Well, you assume you know why, you don’t actually know directly. Let’s be fair now…”
Ogle: “I’m suggesting, okay, I’m suggesting and I fully, genuinely and sincerely believe – the story was broke yesterday to damage me, to damage Unite trade union, so the facts that we discovered today would come out after the damage was done. I’m suggesting that, I sincerely, honestly and earnestly believe that to be the case. And what we have discovered is that, three years ago, Unite trade union spoke to a number of groups working with homelessness – which wasn’t as bad then as it is now, but was on the way – and invited them to look at Merrion Square and see was it appropriate for housing emergency accommodation. And one of the groups, the others can identify themselves, but one of the groups that will be happy to identify themselves was Focus Ireland, who came into Merrion Square three years ago, looked at it, looked at the state of the building and decided that, for emergency accommodation for the services they provide homeless people that that was not a suitable location – notwithstanding any planning problems. And we have worked very, very well in Home Sweet Home, we have…”
Cooper: “Hang on, why didn’t you know that or Jimmy Kelly knew that? Who, in Unite, actually spoke with Focus Ireland and why did they not tell you that?”
Ogle: “Well, first of all, Matt. Staff, as you know here, come and go and move through situations and we looked for time of RTE to give a full, detailed response to those questions. If the question had come on a working day, we could have done it quicker. It came on a Saturday afternoon, very bizarre altogether. Saturday afternoon? We looked for Tuesday, I don’t think it was unreasonable, there’s no reason why RTE couldn’t have waited until Tuesday and it took us time to do a search of our records, of our archives, or our emails, and of our systems. We’re not in that building anymore, Matt. We’ve got rid of that building. Our headquarters by the way…”
Cooper: “Have you got rid of it? You still own it, don’t you?”
Ogle: “It’s held by a trust and I think it’s on the market. My headquarters, Matt, and all the years I’ve sat with you in this building and in your previous building, in Abbey Street, you were over there once too, my headquarters is in Abbey Street..”
Ogle: “It’s always been in Abbey Street and what we are saying, putting on the record today, we’ve issued a statement at 5pm is that Unite trade union did that with charities working in the NGO sector. Focus Ireland, I believe, will confirm that – that could have been confirmed, had RTE simply waited until today. But there was a rush to judgment. There was an agenda set, in my honestly and earnestly held opinion and it’s unbecoming journalism and it’s unbecoming of the national broadcaster.”
Cooper: “Ok, but even if Focus Ireland didn’t want to use it, and I’ll come back and I’m going to ask the question: a lot of people would have said, if Focus Ireland had gone into Apollo House, they would have said that wasn’t suitable either. Now, you decided to takeover Apollo House, make it suitable, and the question is, if your issue was looking after homeless people, instead of occupying a building belonging to somebody else, why did you not use a building to which you had access?”
Ogle: “Our issue wasn’t looking after homeless people. Our issue was forcing the Government to fulfil its obligation to look after homeless people. The role, the job of looking after homeless people does not fall on Brendan Ogle’s office, on Jimmy Kelly’s office and Jim Sheridan’s house and Glen Hansard’s wardrobe – it falls on the Government. And the Government have a land bank called Nama and Apollo House was full of Nama. By the way, Apollo House, Matt, would accommodate ten times’ the number of homeless people and an awful lot quicker. We were able to kit it out in a day and a half. That could never have been done in any other building of a similar size and no other building of a similar size was available anyway.”
Cooper: “Nama, though, has offered many properties to various local councils around the country, including Dublin City Council and the various councils have rejected many of those particular properties. So, Nama has actually tried to give properties – is that not an issue? So, why takeover a Nama commercial building for this particular purpose?”
Ogle: “Well, Nama has offered buildings that local authorities have thought to be unsuitable and Nama has refused to offer other buildings that local authorities have sought – these are two arms of the State. Hold on, Matt, now. These are two arms of the State who are talking to each other against a background of at least 7,000 officially homeless people. Now, can I just make this point, Matt, because I don’t know how long we’ve got. I’m happy to stay here all night. But can I make this point: what is so wrong about people giving up their Christmas, using their energy, their activism and their resources – there was no homeless person who died on the streets of Dublin this Christmas, none. There was a fantastic atmosphere in Apollo House, it has put an historic spotlight on this emergency…”
Cooper: “But hold on a second, Brendan, that wasn’t all down to you…in fairness…”
Ogle: “No, no…”
Cooper: “I’m not criticising your bona fides in relation to this, right. But there’s the work of the likes of the Simon Community, the Peter McVerry Trust, Focus Ireland, the work by Dublin City Council as well – in putting new facilities in place. There are an awful lot of people, even before you came along…”
Cooper: “With the Home Sweet Home campaign who have been trying their damnedest…”
Ogle: “Absolutely, and Matt, you’ve never heard me and nobody has ever heard me saying a bad word against any of those people. And despite their best efforts, despite their very best efforts, homelessness continues to skyrocket, we’ve got over 7,000 people, we’ve got Santa Claus coming to hotels and a lot of those people have discussed it with Home Sweet Home and discussed it with me, and discussed it with other people over the last few weeks. This has helped those people and those agencies make the case: what is so objectionable about that?”
Cooper: “Ok, but isn’t Nama’s remit, as set down by legislation, to get as much money back as possible for the State?”
Ogle: “No, it’s not. Section 14 of the Nama Act 2009 provides a remit for Nama to be aware of their social responsibilities. Home Sweet Home have written to the Minister for Finance on this issue, asking to act on it. He sent a holding response two and a half weeks ago – saying he would send a more detailed response which still is not forthcoming. Matt, we do not accept, Home Sweet Home do not accept, and Unite trade union do not accept that Nama is fulfilling the social responsibility ascribed to it, under Section 14 of the 2009 act.”
Cooper: “But, on your website, that you set up, and it’s a pretty basic website, Home Sweet Home, you don’t mention…Nama at all…”
Ogle: “I didn’t set it up..”
Cooper: “Ok, well somebody from Home Sweet Home set up this. It’s a website setting out your objectives under homelessness now. And Nama is actually not mentioned there.”
Ogle: “Well, Nama has been central, Matt. That’s why we wrote a five-page letter to [Minister for Finance] Michael Noonan. When Unite were approached by the artists – so when everybody is attacking Unite, a union that has put more resources into campaigning on water, on change and on homelessness than any other union in Ireland in the last number of years – which seems to be scaring the wits of some people – let me finish, Matt. When…”
Talk over each other
Ogle: “When I got approached by the artists, I got asked to procure, if possible, a Nama building. The Home Sweet Home is specific to forcing the Government. Matt, we can all do our best, the citizens of Ireland, for many, many years have been doing their best to address the homelessness situation in many, many ways. The charities you’ve named have as well. It’s the Government that needs to be forced to do it and Nama was the vehicle. And John Kilraine knows that.”
Cooper: “Ok, we have a statement from RTE because you [Brendan Ogle] have a fairly extensive Facebook post about this…”
Ogle: “I have..”
Cooper: “It says:
‘While we welcome feedback and have processes in place to facilitate feedback and official complaints, we strongly condemn personal attacks on our journalists and presenters. RTE stands by yesterday’s report and its reporting of the Apollo House story which we are satisfied has been fair and accurate’.
Ogle: “Well I will let the listeners and the viewers of RTE judge whether a report that was rushed out – without giving us the two days, two working days is all we requested – and which now turns out we had offered the building to Focus Ireland and other NGOs which can identify themselves and it didn’t meet with Alan Kelly’s provisions in any case. Of course RTE are going to defend their man. I think it’s an appalling standard of journalism and, to be honest with you, it’s something, through the water campaign, we’ve learned to expect from RTE.”
From top: John Kilraine of RTÉ; Unite’s Brendan Ogle; a RTÉ Radio 1 tweet yesterday, and the Planned development at Unite’s HQ
Further to the report on RTÉ yesterday about trade union Unite and its former headquarters on Merrion Square, which has been empty for three years.
RTÉ reported that “a trust connected to the trade union Unite applied to be exempted from social housing for a development at its former headquarters…while one of its top officials was planning the occupation of Apollo House…”.
The report went on to say Brendan Ogle, of Unite and the Home Sweet Home movement, gained access to Apollo House a day after Unite’s application for a Social Housing Exemption Cert was granted by Dublin City Council.
Further to this…
Mr Ogle writes:
We knew that there was an agenda at work in RTÉ, re: Apollo House, as long ago as Tuesday, December 27th. Carole Coleman sat outside with a cameraman for three hours wondering if she could get in and get some footage.
At that stage, no media had gotten inside to record footage and they, and the public, were quite understandably eager to have a look. Eventually, Carole’s patience paid off and I personally walked her and the cameraman into Apollo House where they spent the best part of an hour. What they had seen was remarkable. Beautiful even.
They had private bedrooms, communal areas, kitchens, medical room and facilities, and an environment of joy. Carole herself expressed her gratitude and how impressed she was and she and the cameraman were treated with the utmost courtesy throughout. Carole got so much footage that she told me it may have to be rolled out over two days.
I looked forward to seeing Apollo House on the Six One news that evening but, alas, no. So I contacted Carole, who rang me back to say that she had encountered an unforeseen problem. RTÉ had decided that there was a legal prohibition on them airing the footage!
Really? Nobody in RTÉ had told the Claire Byrne Live show there was a legal problem when they had repeatedly requested access to Apollo House the week before Christmas. Nobody in TV3 had a legal problem entering and filming in Apollo House for Tonight With Michael Clifford.
Nobody in The Irish Times had, nobody in the Sunday Business Post had and even RTÉ (Prime Time) forgot about their problem a week later.
I knew exactly why RTÉ didn’t show the footage then and I told Carole Coleman. They didn’t show it because it was too positive, it looked too good, and it wasn’t the message RTÉ wanted to communicate.
RTÉ wants to support and uphold the inequality in this state. I have written much about RTÉ’s shameful behaviour in their coverage of the water campaign. And it is getting worse. RTÉ, as an impartial public service broadcaster, is dead. And getting ‘deader’.
Throughout the Right2Water campaign, RTE’s agenda-setting reportage has stood in stark contrast with the events on the streets in the eight massive days we have had both in number, and in tone.
Massive festivals of good nature and change are routinely reported as small side demonstrations in a tone as sour as month-old milk.
I was driving back to Dublin last Wednesday trying to get some order on the ridiculous High Court decision.
I spoke to John Kilraine and he asked me where I was. He was outside Apollo House and I told him Glen Hansard and I would be there to talk to him on the Nine News, which he agreed to on the phone.
We got there at 8:58pm precisely. Kilraine was in the RTÉ broadcast van outside and as the news began he wasn’t coming out. So I texted him. He said we were tight for the 9 o’clock news and I told him we were outside. Waiting on him. Silence. More silence. 9:15pm, silence. 9:20, silence.
I told Terry McMahon “he is waiting until it’s too late because he doesn’t want us on live wrecking their agenda setting reportage with some honesty”.
9:25pm, when the news was over, Kilraine finally found the door handle to exit and tell Terry and I what we already knew, “it’s too late”.
Last Saturday afternoon, I was with my children on an important family weekend and John Kilraine started texting me. I couldn’t deal with it so Dave Gibney rang him.
When Dave told me what he wanted later I wasn’t shocked. Nothing about the dishonest, sneaky agenda setting of this shameful entity that used to pass for an impartial public service broadcast station surprises me after the water campaign and the events set out above.
Why didn’t we put up homeless people in an empty Unite building on Merrion Square? He knew the answer well. He knew a trade union, or Jim Sheridan’s house, or Mattress Mick’s warehouse, or Glen Hansard’s wardrobe was not the point.
NAMA! NAMA! NAMA!
We, the people, already owned NAMA and that was the point of Apollo House. And it was massive. It held 40 people with the judge’s say-so, and could have helped up to 100 in total. But that is not the point.
The point is sabotage of a campaign that has the State and its mouthpieces very worried.
Kilraine asked detailed planning questions and, as property was not my area, he was passed on to Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly. Jimmy quickly found out that this matter was being handled by architects in London. Unite is a large union.
Trade Union representatives don’t do their property deals. Jimmy told Kilraine he would answer all his questions in as much detail as he liked by Tuesday. (Remember this happened over a weekend when offices are closed so it would be [Monday] before we could even start getting information – clearly our sources aren’t as quick as Kilraine’s in – wait for it… Dublin City Council).
I offered him a live interview on [yesterday evening’s] Six One news, knowing full well that “the man in the van” wouldn’t want me calling him and his behaviour out live on TV. And of course he didn’t.
Then there were the sinister elements.
The man who invaded a social housing complex in Finglas, calling for backup to take attention away from Home Sweet Home while he was panned by the media, somehow got hold of Kilraine’s interest in Unite’s empty building in Merrion Square and turned up with seven people, just while Kilraine happened to be passing by, and these renowned union haters read a prepared statement. How do these things happen? Any guesses anyone?
Another man, the only one to be thrown out of Apollo House and who has been railing against the machine ever since, was slaughtered by the media nine days ago for having a troubled, and troubling, past.
But, two days ago, he became the trusted source of a front page story in a Sunday paper lashing Home Sweet Home.
[Yesterday] morning I messaged John Kilraine that he was never to contact me again. About anything.
He then decided, and got permission from RTÉ, to run his ‘story’ before Unite had had the chance to get the proper information from London. Why not wait until Tuesday
Former Minister Alan Kelly (not a man Unite or I am known to be on friendly terms with) changed the social housing provisions such that properties of 10 units or less are exempted from the social housing requirements. The development of the Unite building in Merrion Square is for just four units. Everybody who doesn’t have 10 properties or more is required to fill out a form proving this. Declaring this. This is ‘the story’?
The implication, if Kilraine was right, would be that workers who are our members would have to give their assets, like a tax, to the state? So, Denis O’Brien and Apple don’t have to??
Trade Unions are not-for-profit ‘friendly societies’ run for, and by, their members through democratic structures. I am very proud to be a trade unionist, to be in Unite and to stand on my record as a representative and activist over many years. And I intend to go even further.
As we have been discussing for a considerable time, and as these events prove, our media and our democracy is broken and agenda-laden. The country is being run by, and for, elites embedding inequality in everyone and everything.
We will be launching in the coming months a daily news media outlet to go with our existing permanent political school for communities all over Ireland.
Furthermore, we will be launching a Unity Movement to ensure campaigns such as the water campaign and Home Sweet Home will not only continue, but expand. And Unite will be using it’s Dublin property and it’s members support to enable that movement.
Everything I have done from helping save workers’ pensions in ESB to the water campaign, and on to Home Sweet Home I have done at great personal risk, cost and sacrifice. It is not what I do. It is who I am.
Am I subjected to such hate and abuse because there are some that simply cannot believe that we do what we do because we believe in it?
– I own no home or property. I am a renter
– In 2016 I was driven out of Dublin (where I work) to rent elsewhere due to rising rents
– I have no assets, wealth, shares capital or great material goods
– I do my best to pay my bills, look after my family and meet my commitments
To be subjected to this disgusting behaviour in the media, and for some in the media to be working hand in hand with mysterious and unsavoury elements to attack my trade union and I, must mean that we are getting somewhere.
But it isn’t easy.
I appeal for all who want to change Ireland for the better to support us, face this down, and build our movement.
Focus Ireland has confirmed that the Unite union offered temporary use of its former headquarters to homelessness services some years ago.
Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said the offer was made to house the homeless.
A Focus Ireland spokesman said the property was reviewed by the charity and “found to be totally unsuitable for any of our projects or housing as it would have required extensive refurbishment, significant investment and planning permission”.
But will the 32nd Dáil subvert its democratic mandate to keep Irish Water running?
Brendan Ogle writes:
When Right2Water exploded onto our streets on 11 October, 2014 as the umbrella campaign for the anti-water charges movement a promise was made.
Unusually in Irish public life this promise was kept.
The promise was that Right2Water would be around AT LEAST until the next election seeking the abolition of the regressive double water tax. We also promised that this would be the number one issue in the next election.
For a year and a half commentators and establishment politicians sneered at these claims and repeatedly told us that the campaign had dissipated.
After election 2016 nobody is sneering.
What seemed unlikely, or even impossible, has happened. Labour have been humiliated by their traditional voters and Alan Kelly has been humiliated by what remains of Labour.
Fine Gael have lost one third of their seats and the two large right wing ‘Irish Tory’ parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, can’t even claim that they command the support of a majority in this divided state combined. Seismic change.
Irish Water has been rejected in the polls and, politically and financially, is a beaten docket with charges now suspended. Irish Water, and the privatisation agenda that it represents, has been beaten up, but it is not yet beaten.
Last week Fianna Fail failed to deliver on its electoral commitment to abolish the super quango when given the opportunity in a Dail vote.
Fianna Fail joined a long list of 59 TDs who either abstained on this vote or were unavailable. Even worse, however, is that the vote was carried by 60 TDs vs. 39 TDs and the 60 even included John Halligan and Finian McGrath as Independents.
So, for now, Irish Water continues to function on life support. It’s time to pull the plug.
The day before this vote I attended a very positive meeting of the three Right2Water pillars. This involves trade unions, political parties and independents, and also community activists, working together to seek abolition of Irish Water.
These three strands worked together since 2014 and delivered the largest (per capita) and most peaceful protest movement anywhere in the world today.
Our objectives are simple. We want Irish Water abolished and replaced with a single national water and sanitation board funded through progressive general taxation.
We also want public ownership of the public water supply protected in a new Article 28 Section 4:2:1 of our Constitution to read:
‘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.’
This will require a referendum and in the coming weeks a Bill sponsored by Joan Collins TD and signed by Sinn Féin, PBP, AAA and other Independents goes before the Dail proposing exactly that.
Since the beginning public debate of the Irish Water issue has been conducted as if a fiction were true. That fiction is that Irish Water, the meters and the billing system is not about privatisation.
All across the globe vulture funds and corporates are taking ownership of public water supplies and turning our human Right2Water into a right to profit for the 1%. They are turning that which we need to live into a commodity that they can turn off and deny to citizens at will.
Apart from ‘financial services’ nothing delivers bigger profit margins for these vultures than our life sustaining water.
From Bolivia to Berlin, and from Portugal to Portroe corporate interests have ensnared politicians to do their bidding and hand the people’s water over to them.
But the people have fought back and prevented this happening or even won water back through re-municipalisation as has happened in Bolivia, Berlin and Paris for example.
Water in Paris and Belin were both re-municipalised in 2014 following rising bills, lack of investment in new infrastructure and public pressure.
The Cochabamba water war took place in Bolivia’s third largest city in 1999 and 2000. A community coalition ‘Coordinadora in Defence of Water and Life’ won after public protests which saw one protestor killed. The privatisation was reversed.
Of course, on the rare occasion that the media have put this to them, politicians in Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens have rejected the argument that they are engaging in a privatisation quest.
And they have been allowed to issue bland denials of what is blindingly obvious without being held accountable.
That is now about to end. If privatisation is not the agenda behind Irish Water then this ‘Government’ can save itself no end of trouble by simply supporting Joan Collins’ bill when it goes before the Dail.
I personally believe that the expected failure of Fine Gael to support this bill, or further obfuscation by Fianna Fail or Shane Ross’s ‘Independents’ that prevents this vital bill from being passed, will be a subversion of the democratic mandate of the 32nd Dail that will require a response.
This Government is barely a Government at all and it is already hanging by a thread before it has even begun.
People power led to a massive change in the electoral shape of Ireland in the February election. I don’t believe for one minute that the necessary change is complete.
From top: Fine Gael MEP Mairéad McGuinness and Brendan Ogle
Fine Gael MEP Mairéad McGuinness and Brendan Ogle, of trade union Unite and campaign group Right2Water, spoke to RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke this morning about Irish Water.
The discussion followed reports that legal advice – commissioned by Irish Water’s parent company Ervia – apparently shows water charges can’t be abolished.
At the beginning of the interview on Today with Seaán O’Rourke, Mr Ogle accused Irish Water of selectively leaking the legal advice to a national newspaper (Irish Times), before calling on Irish Water to publish the reported legal advice on its website today.
From the interview…
Mairead McGuinness: “The privatisation issue which Brendan raises is for ideological and political reasons and I said earlier, we have politicised this issue far too much. There are over 60% of people paying their charges, it is controversial, I understand that but remember that those who obeyed the law will continue to obey the law and should be respected for it.
And, certainly from a Fine Gael perspective, our position on the water, Irish Water, and charging for water, is clear: I acknowledge that the handling of it may not have been the best of practices but we now have a structure in place which knows what’s happening above ground and below ground. And believe me, it is not pretty. We know where the investment needs to be made and we know where we need to protect our water sources and I think, if that were to be interrupted and interfered with we are going back decades and I think that would be reprehensible.”
Brendan Ogle: “Well the water notices were dealt with in Roscommon through paying progressive general taxation. There is no doubt that water notices are a disgrace, we need more investment, we need to fix the system and the way to fix the system is not to be spending €2.6billion over the next number of years on meters, it’s to put that money into fixing the leaks, protect the water in the constitution and me and Mairéad will agree on all of that. Stop wasting money on meters, stop wasting money on legal advisors, stop wasting money on public relations, put the money into fixing the leaks and protect water in public ownership.”
Brendan Ogle, from the Right 2 Water campaign, spoke with John Keogh on Newstalk’s Lunchtime earlier.
He’s calling for a referendum.
From the interview…
Brendan Ogle: “There are two things that are important about any proposed referendum. The first thing that’s important is where the proposed wording would sit in the constitution. Different parts of the constitution are open to different types of interpretation. So we’re proposing a specific article section, Article 28, Section 421, which is the part of the constitution which deals with the functions of government, the functions of the executive and what we’re proposing is a very simply worded referendum which would read as follows:
‘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.’
John Keogh: ‘Ok, why is there a need for a referendum when we already have this guarantee enshrined in legislation. Alan Kelly brought legislation before the Dáil only a couple of months back.”
Ogle: “Well, fair question John, but what we need to realise here is that there’s no such thing as a guarantee enshrined in legislation. Legislation, such as the legislation for example, to enact Irish Water itself, is simply legislation, it can be changed in the Dáil and is often changed and I’m sure the Irish Water legislation will be changed. And sometimes the legislation can be changed very, very quickly by the use of whips and guillotines and all sorts of…”
Ogle: “Just to be clear, we don’t want to do anything with Irish Water, except abolish it. We certainly don’t want to put that in the constitution.”