A CRITIQUE. DONEGAL A MICROCOSM OF THE MALAISE AFFECTING RIGHT2CHANGE IRELAND November 19, 2015 By Enda Craig and James Quigley
Donegal a microcosm of national malaise
This article discusses the anti water charge movement in Ireland, in particular Right2Change. It focuses on our experience in Donegal involving some dreadful treatment and shady manoeuvrings by fellow campaigners. It uses this experience to draw conclusions about the national campaign and finds out that we are a mere microcosm of the controversy nationally.
It would be safe to say that this could be written about any county in Ireland and like Inishowen are part and parcel of the political quagmire that the campaign has descended into, a cauldron overflowing with political and personal intrigue, cloak and dagger politics, mistrust, competition, egos and downright nastiness.
From the lofty ideals of communities successfully standing together against water charges, resolute in the aim of abolishing Irish Water and preventing the privatisation and commodification of our water resources we have reached the stage where this hard fought campaign has been subsumed by politicos with their clarion call of ‘unity’ and ‘revolution’ and thrown into a myriad of other issues, confusing the anti water protesters and relegating the water charges campaign to the back of the cue.
Righ2Water Subsumed under Right2Change political agenda
Right2Water’s target has shifted. It is has now changed it’s name to Right2Change and it’s focus is not on beating water charges but on the next general election, building some type of left or left of centre political organisation. The optimism built up by the anti water charges success is now giving way to pessimism and confusion. We are at the mercy of political parties and the unions. They have now split this fine movement and we are at the mercy of these political leaders, in a straightjacket, between the devil and the deep blue sea. The successful community campaign of non payment and non recognition of water charges and Irish Water has been handed to, or was taken over by politicos. The initiative and power has been wrested from local groups and the emphasis is now on institutions that have led to the impasse the county is in.
Look up the definition of a ‘politico’, a person who will promise anything to win an election. “Parliament is a means of diffusing democracy, of channelling real struggles into a safe dead-end. Time and time again it has become a graveyard for the workers’ movement.” Kevin Doyle Parliament or Democracy
Right2Change has done all this. On that fateful Sat in August, 2015, led by the affiliated unions, particularly Unite and Mandate, Brendan Ogle, the educational officer for Unite and main honcho in Right2Change, shouted from the stage in front of the GPO in Dublin, to the 100,000 anti water charge protesters , “ we haven’t gone away, you know, this campaign is much more than water. Say after me, this campaign is much more than water” and holding up the little coloured booklet of Right2Change’s policy principles he launched the Right2Change organisation.
Credit where credit is due
Thus ended, as far as Right2Change was concerned, the anti water charge protest per say. It became the anti austerity campaign, a programme for government, run by the trade unions, Mandate and Unite and hitched its wagon to political parties, Sinn Fein being the most prominent. However, the drama and intrigues are still far from over and it remains unclear what part the vast throngs of protesters have in Right2Change’s plans. On the periphery, used when needed.
Brendan Ogle, once pointed to a photograph of protesters in O’Connell St, Dublin and inferred that Right2Change is speaking for them. Time and time again we hear the same sentiment. Right2Change is the voice of the protesters or that Right2Change has built up this movement. They have brought thousands of people on to the streets. Somehow this never sat right with us. In a way, it seems, Brendan Ogle and Right2Change are usurping the rightful credit which should belong to all the various anti water and anti austerity groups in Ireland, the general public who for well over a year now have withstood the might of the state and tramped the streets in protest. Somehow Right2Change believe in their own rhetoric forgetting also that the Anti Austerity Alliance is there too.
The Seed of Doubt
Why are we writing this criticism? Surely by doing it we are sowing the seed of doubt and disunity and mistrust among campaigners?
From the start of the campaign right up to the present we have heard counter arguments like these. Should we bury our heads in the sand, pretend everything is hunky-dory, bite the bullet and ignore the obvious? This is not realistic or sound advice.
Oscar Wilde’s once said ‘Love that dare not speak it’s name’. Something that exist, is inherent but nobody wants to acknowledge it, never mind discuss it for fear that the world would come toppling down, the edifice crumble and the pillars collapse.
No we can not hold our tongues. We have to have a written record of our experience in Donegal even though it exposes some hard truths.
Right2Change’s mantra and religious connotation
We can not get away from religious similarities or allegories that seems to encompass Right2Change and the fervour groups and individuals portray. We encounter phrases like ‘only concentrate on the positive’, ‘not listening to criticism’, ‘believe’. There is a blind faith in the leaders and the the mantra of ‘Unity’ is professed. This behaviour is hard to counteract but thoughts gnaw away at us, an inkling that something terribly wrong is happening and not many are speaking out about it. This wrong is the blind faith, the insidious control, the attacks epitomised in Facebook comments by intense followers and their attacks on anyone who dare question Right2Change. The leaders and followers seem to have a divine belief that it is OK to use threats, slander and odious comments but it is not right for others to question or criticise them or the movement. It is like a cult behaviour, a brainwashing technique used by a very slick and colourful brand. One that has only one way, the right way and those who take a different path are against them, their enemy who have joined forces with FG, Lab, FF, the devil. It is a very black and white way and in the end a fractious and fraudulent, disingenuous way.
Perhaps it is our religious upbringing, the brainwashing which has left an indelible mark on our minds that has sown a seed of doubt. Anything that remotely resembles blind faith, fervour, whipping up the crowd with falsehood that strikes our alarm bells. Or perhaps its our conscience that reminds us that the end does not justify the means.
What ever the cause of our itch, we will discuss Right2Change’s and related groups’ tactics that have been used. We believe that these tactics have disregarded truth, integrity and principles, demeaned and disregarded people, usurped the movement and protest groups for political or personal agendas.
Local Autonomous Group Struggles to Maintain Independence
Buncrana Against Irish Water is a local Donegal, Inishowen group, non-aligned to any political party or organisation. It is not affiliated to Right2Change or Can’t Pay Won’t Pay. It was set up to oppose the Government’s introduction of water charges, Irish Water Ltd, the Water Services 2007 and 2013 Acts and the privatisation of our natural resource. We would generally support the Right2Change principles with reservations but we also support Can’t Pay Won’t Pay’s campaign of boycotting Irish Water. We do not want to be in any political organisation and we will not be led by any group or political party. After all there is more than one way to defeat Irish Water. One of these ways is refusing water meters and another is boycotting charges and Irish Water. There is also civil disobedience and possibly the legal route. We do not have to rely on political parties. If political parties grow out of the movement or exist already let them support the campaign fully with no party agenda. When the general election comes we will know who to vote for. There is a fine line between a party leading a community for their own ends and a party supporting a community in their campaign.
The BAIC believe that water is a human right and that it should not be turned into a commodity or privatised. It should be run by the state, for the people of the state and paid for through general taxation. We are opposed to the installation of harmful smart meters, detrimental to our health and our privacy. Buncrana Together is the media outlet, facebook and web page for the group.
It is interesting to note that planning for water charges and meter installation has been ongoing since 2000, ever since the introduction of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and all political parties were aware of this . ( see our article National Hoodwink on our web page.
A litany of Donegal controversies, political intrigue and nastiness
Towards the end of last year we noticed that there were different groups in Donegal, namely Right2Water and Can’t Pay Won’t Pay. There were also some local groups, some affiliated to the main groups and some autonomous groups unaffiliated to any organisation. We noticed that there were frictions between groups through personal conversations, especially in social media and on demonstrations.
Right2Water tended to be in East Donegal and Can’t Pay Won’t Pay in the west of the county. We noticed that Right2Water Donegal was, and still is, highly influenced by Sinn Fein. In Donegal Sinn Fein have two TDs Padraig MacLochlainn, Donegal North-East and Pearse Doherty, Donegal South-West. There are nine Sinn Fein county councillors, most of whom are involved in the Donegal Right2Water organisation. Sinn Fein representative, Philip McFadden is the main spokesperson, organiser and pro for Donegal Right2Water. He has created numerous Right2Water facebook groups (on paper only), in every town in Inishowen in particular, cornering the market for Right2Water.
Can’t Pay Won’t Pay in West Donegal would be more left wing orientated, possibly Anti Austerity Alliance with republican background. Thomas Pringle, TD, and county councillor Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig are supporters. Being in East Donegal we would have experienced Right2Water’s reaction towards their nemesis Can’t Pay Won’t Pay and Anti Austerity Alliance. This was one of contempt, using phrases like headcases, left wing nuts, Trotskyist, couldn’t agree on anything. All disparaging phrases which we still hear today especially on facebook, even from Right2Water coordinators and leading activists.
We have never received or heard an explanation or rational argument why these invectives were and are used and we can only assumed it’s propaganda where if something is said often enough it must be true. Incidentally, we have not experienced the same type of hatred coming from the ‘left’. There might be policy differences and these would be articulated.
It was partly because of this enmity and the control of the campaign by Right2Water, i.e Philip McFadden and Sinn Fein, that we decided to try to form a strong, local community wide unaffiliated Inishowen group and it was also because we found there was very little being done on the ground. It was a facebook campaign with the occasional demonstration, just ticking over.
The community was in the dark and floundering, wondering where was the information and support. Any day the meter contractors would arrive. We also had a problem with non structure, democracy and representation in the local Inishowen group Against Water Charges group. This group was supposed to be unaffiliated and non aligned but in reality it was and still is heavily influenced by Philip McFadden i.e. Sinn Fein and Sinead Stewart, Right2Change and as it turns out a groomed Unite trade union representative.
It was felt that a more representative, independent, Inishowen group was needed which could work with both Right2Water or Can’t Pay Won’t Pay groups in Donegal but would not affiliated to any organisation or influenced by any political party.
Carndonagh public meeting, Sinn Fein and tight control
A meeting took place in Carndonagh on Jan, 2015 in the hope of setting up such a group. We were in constant communication with Sinead Stewart and Christina Crumlish, Inishowen Against Water Charges, organisers. We also liaised with Sinn Fein and other interested parties. 9We emphasised what we were trying to do and surprisingly all seemed to be in agreement.
However, on the actual night of the public meeting our proposal was blocked by the Right2Water and Sinn Fein representative Philip McFadden, Sinead Stewart and Christina Crumlish. Sinead Stewart said that it would be over their dead bodies that they would allow everything that they worked for go. Philip McFadden said that this new group would have to come under the Right2Water umbrella. Sinn Fein representative said appealed to ‘unity’. We were not allowed a vote. Afterwards Sinn Feintook the side of Right2Water and the Inishowen Against Water Charges group. This episode and the accusations and lies which followed shocked us and it is indelibly stamped on our minds. We had our first experience in campaign control and political manoeuvring.
Continue reading at: BuncranaTogether.com
Kind permission was given to the Plough and the Stars to republish the original article by the authors: Enda Craig and James Quigley.