Shortage of water but no shortage of blame in Irish discourse

THE ISSUE

As the Irish heat wave continues, arguably the most contentious ‘establishment v majority’ issues in recent memory is anything but water under the bridge.

THE MEDIA

Article by Sarah Burns, Vivienne Clarke in Irish Times on July 3, 2018

Irish Water warns ‘nightmare scenario’ if no big rainfall in autumn

“We need sustained rain. Unless there is torrential rain we’re looking at a very dry autumn,” Irish Water managing director Jerry Grant said on Tuesday.

Article by The Green Party in GreenParty.ie on June 30, 2018

Greens: Heat-wave exposes the short-sightedness of Water Charge abolition

“Government capitulated to populism and now communities are paying the price…The reality is that as our climate changes, these water shocks will continue and we don’t have a plan to conserve, harvest or levy for the use of our most precious resource.”

Article by The Workers Party in WorkersParty.ie on July 2, 2018

Dublin water restrictions show up failure of Irish Water to tackle infrastructure

“The government wanted to use water charges to squeeze yet more money out of the same group of people – low- and middle-income workers. Once it became clear that was not going to be possible, the issue of upgrading our water infrastructure was conveniently dropped from the table.”

THE COMMENT

We normally base these posts on one piece of content but this time we have three to compare and contrast, and it’s on that old chestnut of Water Charges which was bound to rear its head with the spell of hot weather we’ve been having.

Given the Irish establishment was committed to toeing the EU line of introducing water charges for regular citizens, you’d imagine a water shortage followed by a heatwave would be the perfect opportunity for them to point the finger at the #Right2Water campaign.

But why should the government and/or mainstream media do this when they’ve the Green Party to do it for them?

As you can see by the above quote in the IT, they chose to simply report on a statement from Irish Water.  No comment, no pushback, no challenging questions, just your basic stenography article.

Now in fairness, you can see why the Greens would be in favour of charges, though I’d suspect that if they were the ones setting up Irish Water it would look much different and would tend to levy more responsibility on business than private users.  That said, I can’t say I’m happy with their ‘giving in to populism’ angle.

The #Right2Water campaign, as far as I’m concerned anyway, was about way more than water.  It was a bridge (pun half-intended) too far in a continuing government policy of austerity, and in the end public pressure won the day.  For now.

If Irish Water wasn’t set up to benefit the people instead of simply being another corporation for the government to cash in on down the line, there would still have been opposition to it but I reckon it would have been much more difficult to get such widespread support.

Unfortunately it’s all too easy to spin the ‘well we tried to do something, and the lefty public said no’ narrative, but while I’m hardly a fervent follower of the Workers Party, their quote seems to be the most accurate depiction of the situation.

Yes we need better water infrastructure, yes it has to be paid for, but until it’s done in such a way that the majority of citizens pay the bare minimum while the tab is taken up by citizens and companies that waste this valuable resource, I’m afraid the stalemate will remain.  JLP

#IANWAE

#Right2Water campaign’s victory over charges should at least earn them a right to reply on further water issues

THE ISSUE

The Irish establishment / government took quite a heavy beating on Water Charges, and the way this week’s shortages are being spun, it certainly looks like they haven’t let it go.

THE MEDIA

Article by Killian Woods [with reporting by Cormac Fitzgerald] in Fora.ie on March 5, 2018

Ireland’s ‘fragile’ water supply could make firms think twice about investing here

“Dublin Chamber chief executive Mary Rose Burke has said the restriction of water supply in the capital could make some companies looking to invest in Ireland reconsider their options.”

THE COMMENT

For full disclosure, I took part in #RightToWater marches and did not pay my charges so it’s pretty clear where I stand on the issue.  But this particular post is more about media coverage than it is the water issue.

Check out the linked article on Fora.ie, a business site which is part of the Journal.ie network.

While I understand that the focus of this site is what is going on in the business community, does that mean it should only ever offer their point of view on particular issues?

This is an article in which the Dublin Chamber of Commerce is effectively being given free reign to offer it’s own take on the restrictions recently put in place by Irish Water.  Forgive us for assuming a like-minded approach among the Chamber, the Government which took such a bad beating over water, and the jobs-for-the-boys private company which it created.

While they don’t actually state that water charges need to be reinstated, it’s not exactly well hidden between the lines.  If there’s not enough money to fix the water infrastructure, they claim, then there won’t be investment which in turn means no more jobs.  The implication is very clear.

All I want to do in this article is present a viewpoint from the other side, which I believe Killian Woods could have done.  And he wouldn’t even need to ask for a quote either…he could have copy/pasted from the Facebook page of any anti-austerity TD such as Paul Murphy :

The water shortages we’re experiencing are a consequence of long-term under-investment in infrastructure. The predictable attempts to use them as a new argument for charges have to deal with fact that London, which has meters and charges, has the exact same problem. The solution is investment, which should be funded by progressive taxation of profits, high income and wealth.

No prizes for guessing which side I’m on, but at least I have presented you with more than one viewpoint in my article.  JLP

#IANWAE

Irish Times lets Fine Gael off the hook big time in end-of-year love-in, er, I mean, podcast

THE ISSUE

The Irish political conversation is dominated by a narrative that insists the electorate’s only two options for government leadership are the so-called ‘Civil War’ parties.

THE MEDIA

Podcast by Irish Times – Inside Politics : ‘The Year In Politics’ on Tuesday, December 26, 2017

‘…people feel they can relate to these people more because they feel they have lived the same experiences they have…’

THE COMMENT

Over in the US, Donald Trump and his Republican-led government are constantly moaning and groaning under the weight of repeated challenging reporting from publications like the New York Times.  Too bad its Irish namesake doesn’t give our own recently-appointed political leader similar treatment, if this ‘end of year’ summary is anything to go by.

Essentially the all-male panel has given Leo Varadkar & co a free Party Political Podcast.  Wherever these are recorded, I pity the poor cleaning staff because they’ll have their work cut out removing all of Fine Gael’s 2017 political woes that have been swept under the carpet.

Apparently we are meant to have forgotten that this is the party that had to admit defeat on the water charges.  Well, when I say ‘admit’ defeat, I actually mean grudgingly concede it.

Apparently we are meant to have forgotten the fact that Varadkar rose to power under an electoral process within his party that was chronically tilted away from the grass roots members, meaning all he had to do was shmooze his way through his fellow TDs to get the nod.  This weighting method is very similar to that which saw Hillary Clinton controversially secure the 2016 Democratic nomination at the expense of Bernie Sanders.

Apparently we are meant to forget the homeless crisis still prevalent in the Republic, simply because the Taoiseach says so.

And apparently we are meant to forget the disgraceful whisteblower controversy which nearly sparked a Christmas election and ultimately cost the Tánaiste her job.

Nobody expects the mainstream media to completely ignore a government’s positives, but what this IT podcast has done is to summarize the Irish year in politics thusly…’Sure isn’t it great that our top cabinet members are all so young?‘ [paraphrase]

And as one of the leading bits of ‘evidence’ of the effects of having such youthful leadership, the ‘lads’ cite the Eighth Amendment debate.

Despite the fact that Fine Gael’s own Citizens Assembly recommends repeal and legislation, and despite the fact that the Oireachtas Committee recommends repeal and legislation, the government position at the time of this podcast was that a decision is yet to be made on how to proceed.  No guarantee has been forthcoming that a straight yes or no choice on repeal will be offered to the Irish public.

Yet somehow the panel twists this state of affairs into one that represents a sweeping generational change.  Well, for this conservative jurisdiction that may be true to an extent, but given that Fine Gael are the country’s most conservative mainstream party [just about ahead of Fianna Fáil], do we think these ‘young pretenders’ have reached their current positions by cultural revolution or because the elder statesmen ahead of them on the ladder gave them a helping hand along the way?

And the final insult for me from this podcast came when they made the most ludicrous segue from the potential impact of FG’s boy wonder on the Irish electorate to the ‘youthquake’ experienced in Britain’s general election campaign that brought Jeremy Corbyn extremely close to Number 10.  I had to switch it off after that so you’ll have to listen yourself to find out what they said after that.

Here’s to a 2018 where Ireland’s political establishment, both in Leinster House and the media, are called to account whenever they ignore at best, or put down at worst, progressive issues.  JLP

#IANWAE

It’s not about Jobstown, Paul Murphy nor Joan Burton. It’s about what side you’re on.

The date was September 17, 2016.  I got the Luas with my wife and our two young children to Heuston Station, which was one of the meeting places for the latest Right2Water march.  We all set off towards the centre of town, and there were thousands gathered in just our section and the various groups from around the city were to converge at St Stephens Green.  

As we walked along the quays, I’d say it was probably around Ormond Quay, a man walked up to my wife as she pushed the buggy carrying our then 17-month old daughter and stuck a microphone in her face.  Behind him was a cameraman with his device pointing at her.

“So why are you marching today?”

“I don’t want to talk.”

“But I thought you cared about water changes?  Why are you marching then if you don’t want to talk about it?”

To be clear, I am paraphrasing the man, but that is definitely the gist of the exchange.

Needless say I wanted to throw him into the Liffey.  On a more sensible level, I wanted to give him a piece of my mind.  My wife does not feel comfortable in those situations.  And why should she.  All she wanted to do to lend her support for something she believed in was march, and it is as much her right not to talk as it is to talk.

How dare you confront a peaceful protester in this manner?  Would you not at least ask permission for the interview first?  Identify yourself and the broadcaster or publication for whom you are reporting first?  This is what I wanted to say to the man.  But I knew it wouldn’t come out that way so I took her hand and led her away from him.

I don’t want to give the impression that I go to these marches all the time.  That’s not because I’d be ashamed if I did, in fact it’s more to the contrary…I’m ashamed that I had somehow managed to be elsewhere each and every time such activism was going on, no matter how much I believed in a particular cause.  My “excuse” for the past year or so has been that I have been more interested in the US Presidential campaign plus my online time has been taken up by running a monetised sports blog.

None of that really matters, though.  You either show up for events like this or you don’t.  And on this day I honestly thought showing up was enough.  I should have been more prepared for a moment like this one.  I should have known to confront this asshole with a clear head and using accurate language to give him a proper soundbite and I should have also known to use my phone to record my own words as well.

Anyway, here’s my point that relates that incident above to this article.  

Do you believe my recollection of what happened?  Or do you think I’m exaggerating the reporter’s aggressiveness and/or lack of professionalism for the sake of the cause I was marching for?  Your honest answer to that question is very important when it comes to contemporary Irish politics.

Something else happened to me on the day of that protest.  As we waited at Heuston Station for the march to start, I was handed a placard.  I looked at it. It read “Jobstown Not Guilty”.  I handed it back to the man.

The reason I wouldn’t take it was not that I was opposed to the Jobstown cause, rather that on this particular day, while I did know about the incident in question involving then-Tánaiste Joan Burton, I was unaware of the specifics of the pending legal case, and also the organisation to back the defendants.  

Basically I didn’t want to be going around with my children holding a placard for a cause I knew little about.  And truth be told, in the short amount of time between receiving the placard and handing it back, I didn’t have time to check whether or not it was somehow connected to Sinn Féin, which was my greatest fear.

Since then of course, I have gotten to know more and more about the #JobstownNotGuilty cause.  Again because of other distractions, I never managed to get too involved in the activism, but you can be sure I was delighted when the defendants were found not guilty at the end of June.

Was the delight down to my thoughts on the actual events which transpired on that fateful day in Jobstown in November 2014?  Of course not.  I wasn’t there.  My delight stems from the fact that this was way, way more than a court case.  This was actually the coal face of modern Irish society.  People’s approach to the topic could not illustrate more where they stand with regard to the “haves vs have-nots” nature of public opinion these days.

And am I a fan of Paul Murphy?  I can’t answer.  I don’t know the guy personally.  But I do know that he was elected by the people of Dublin South-West on a ticket which couldn’t more clearly define his mandate if it tried : “Anti Austerity Alliance”.

I have certainly read multiple attempts to smear him though.   Like this op-ed by Philip Ryan in the Irish Independent over the weekend.

Paul Murphy really fancies himself as Ireland’s modern day Nelson Mandela with a megaphone

Here’s a thought…instead of slagging the man off for his megaphone, why not ask yourself why he feels the need to use it?  Or better still…give him the megaphone YOU’RE using.  Let HIM write a piece in the Indo and let your readers form their own opinion?  

No – it’s much easier to hide behind your column and slag the man off along with half-truths and tenuous associations.

And while we’re on that subject…a few points.  The pro-establishment media are very concerned with the fact that a water balloon was thrown.  So much so, they make it sound like it was a Molotov cocktail.  If that’s the extent of the violence that took place, then that’s surely enough to question the general narrative for starters.

They are also very concerned with the fact that Joan Burton is a woman.  Why?  She was the Tánaiste at the time.  It shouldn’t matter a jot what gender she is.  There was nowhere near this level of hysteria when President Higgins had a similar in-car experience a couple of months later, although the mainstream coverage was still very much anti-protester.

And as for “kidnapping”, well that one’s easy.  The court has decided it wasn’t.  Therefore it wasn’t.

But we had the ultimate side-taking just recently in the Dáil by our new Taoiseach.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fnewstalkfm%2Fvideos%2F10156467130447907%2F&show_text=1&width=560

Asked by Deputy Murphy if there would be a public inquiry into false statements made by gardaí throughout the course of the trial, Varadkar replied thus…

Deputy, you had a fair trial…

…so we’d best leave it at that.”  Had that been the Taoiseach’s point, even it it meant brushing Murphy off on the Garda thing, I would have understood to an extent.   Remember…“Taoiseach” is supposed to mean “leader”, and one every bit as much of the people who voted for Murphy as those who voted for Fine Gael.

But he couldn’t resist going on…

…you were acquitted, but that doesn’t mean that your behaviour was right.  And it may well be the case that you weren’t engaged in kidnapping, but it was thuggery.

…and his good buddies at BlueshirtFM, aka Newstalk, were on hand to provide plenty of “huzzah!” for his clearly biased opinion.  No fear of asking a Solidarity representative on to provide some kind of balance.

The Jobstown trial and all the pro-establishment opinion surrounding it is not about what took place that day.  It was about framing the narrative of Irish political discourse.  The country was brought to its knees by the actions of the government, the banking sector and the construction sector and one by one the public are expected to pick up the tab.

Whatever you may think about Paul Murphy, he is merely the latest focal point for the establishment to attack through various means.  If it wasn’t him it would be someone like Brendan Ogle.   Or Mick Wallace.  Or Ruth Coppinger.  Or Clare Daly.  The way this country is set up right now, it’s remarkably easy for those either wishing to suck up to the establishment or afraid to appear “too left” to play the man (or woman!!!) instead of the ball.

And what is the ball?  It’s the true political discussion, one that is not being had anywhere it matters.  It’s not about Fianna Fáil vs Fine Gael.  It’s not even about “haves” vs “have nots”, at least not precisely.

It’s about three distinct groups….those who speak for the “haves”, those who speak for the “have nots” and the most important of all, those burying their heads in the sand, making countless excuses for not getting involved.  Much like I tend to do.  At least I find the odd hour or two to voice my opinion here, though that of course is nowhere near enough.  JLP

Follow the Jobstown Not Guilty Facebook page here

#IANWAE

A view on the Jobstown trial by Keego

Editor’s note – Apologies once more for this site remaining idle for so long…demand from other projects has been too strong of late.  We will get back to it soon.  In the meantime we are grateful to Keego for offering this post.  We have our own take on the Jobstown trial here at FPP and we hope to post on it soon.


 

I had planned on taking the summer off from furiously writing down thoughts on various topics. The plan was to be thought free for a few months as thinking about and reading the news was overloading my already fragile brain.

There was a Trump, a Brexit and a commissioner who appeared to enjoy her commisionary position a bit too much and is willing to do anything to keep it. But there was one issue that made me reach for my vintage dell Netbook (not my best investment) to vent and ask you your opinion on the topic and that was the trial of the jobstown 7. These were a group of people who protested against then Tanaiste and all round unlikable person, Joan Burton.

The coverage of this trial annoyed me, the way the protest was organised annoyed me and nearly everyone involved in the protest on both sides annoyed me. So I thought I would vent into your brain in the hope that you could either correct or agree with me.

Firstly, before we get started, a little about myself might help. I am pro protest. It is healthy and when used correctly, massively effective in sending a message to government. And I think that is where we start. From the moment the news hit the stations about an ongoing protest in Jobstown in Tallaght, it appeared to be an unorganised mess.

When a protest is organised it is near unstoppable. When something is unstoppable then things change. No doubt that there is a massive list of things that need to change in Irish politics, and this could have been a massive dent in that list.

Instead, the people surrounded Burtons car and shouted abuse at her, banged on her windows and all round intimidated her. There are pictures of her smiling in the car, but that is irrelevant. There is zero context to that photo, was it at the start of the protest? People sat down in front of her car not allowing it to move off. This is beyond stupid. If I sit down in front of a car of someone I don’t like, I get run over.

The garda siochana arrived and this is where it gets a bit murky. Aside from locking an old lady in a car and shouting abuse at her, the Garda were limited in what they could do. The geography of the area meant that the way out of this situation necessitated moving the Tánaiste into another vehicle. With the crowd at fever pitch, she felt that this would be unsafe.

And that is the first point. Whether you think that Joan Burton could have opened the car door and walked out or not is not the issue. She did not feel she would have been safe enough to do so. This is a logical response to being shouted at and intimidated for the preceding time.

I had a conversation with someone on twitter about the above point. He stated to me that she could have left anytime she wanted to, she just had to ask the Garda for help. Maybe I have been hit in the head too many times, but if I need to ask a Garda for help to get out of my car then there is a safety issue in progress, or is that a bit unfair of me?

The entire protest was leaded by Paul Murphy of the People Before Profit/Solidarity/Will protest for headlines party. Megaphone in hand he chanted slogans that riled up the crown and made any chance of a quick and safe ending to this protest a near impossibility.

Skipping forward a bit to the outcome. There are 2 massive issues arising from this. Firstly the government went full on in chasing the people who organised it. Dawn raids where a semi regular occurrence for a time. Nothing good happens at dawn as we all know! When the Garda go in heavy handed like this it plays into the hands of the protestors. Immediately, anyone who is hearing the news asks ‘what are the Gardaí/government trying to hide/cover up’. Again this is a healthy response. Even with my dislike for Murphy there was never any need to knock on his door at dawn. It was done for headlines, it was done to send a message and it makes the Garda/Govt look exactly the same as the people they are chasing.

That being headline hunters.

It comes to pass that the Garda who were there on the day of the protest couldn’t get their stories straight, or couldn’t remember the same story at the same time. As soon as this happens the case gets so filthy that the Jobstown 7 where always going to walk free. And in walking free became martyrs/celebrities for the left. This was what made me write this piece. I would be a left leaning person, I believe in taking care of everyone, I believe in being fiscally conservative but I also believe in having a plan. Murphy et al do not have a plan that works. They have tremendous sound bites, tremendous slogans but nothing of substance that will help anyone.

This protest shows the bad judgement of Murphy. Instead of planning, even if this was off the cuff he should have planned ahead. He was happy to stand by while people locked an old lady in a car and shouted abuse at her. Imagine if instead of that, they lined the streets and slowly turned their back on the Tánaiste, in silence. That would have been power and would have made for footage that would be shared on social media for years. Instead they acted like the kids in Berkley College when someone they don’t agree with comes to speak.

If you don’t believe in your beliefs enough to put them forward in an adult way then you are just a dreamer without a plan.

So, with the Jobstown 7 walking free. This means that protesters can shout/spit/imprison people who do not agree with them. It means you can say anything you want to anyone and have no repercussions.  It means that it is not about the idea, it is about the force and loudness with which you shout yours out.

This is not a good thing. This is not what Ireland should be about in 2017.

In closing I would like to repeat. I think protesting is the most powerful tool we have as citizens, especially with the voting system the way it is. But we need to be smart, we need to be productive in the protesting. It is not about who is the loudest, it is about who has the best idea for this country.

Please share this with Murphy and his party, I would welcome an opportunity to speak to him about it. I’ll even buy the coffee. I am not saying this so I can shout at the lad, I genuinely want to understand his thinking because it is so far away from mine, even though we would both be called loony lefties!

Do tag me in the sharing of this post @nkeegan on twitter

“A lot won, a lot more to do”, claims #Right2Water movement

A statement from the Irish #Right2Water campaign that is definitely worth reading…

After a day of FF being FF again and working with FG to re-open the door to water charges down the line the Oireachtas Committee have finalised and voted on a report which will now go before the Dail.

You the water movement have achieved the following:

– charges as they were are gone

– bills as they were are gone

– domestic charges will be paid through general taxation (with the exception set out below)

– a consensus on a referendum will be stated (but no date will be announced don’t believe FG or FF will do this)

– further relief has been given to those in private schemes

– money will be paid back to those who paid their bills

Thanks to FF doing an about face however there will now be

– meters in new builds and refurbishments

– a charge (as opposed to penalties in last weeks report) to anyone consistently using 170% of the average use per adult (currently 133 litres a day)

This means we continue to live in a country where privileged elites who have always abused their position continue to spin and lie and twist in order to keep alive their ideological efforts to privatise and commodify our human Right2Water.

In this case they kept going until they finally got a legal opinion (their 9th) that they could buy to say what they wanted it to say.

Still the campaign has ensured they have been set back years from where they were three, two and even one year ago by the water campaign. Without you, the water campaigners, they’d probably be about to sell it now while your bills for a full household would be in four figures.

You won, for now, on general taxation, but like the bin charges, they are going to spend years trying to roll back on this.

We at R2W are not happy with this outcome as there is more to do. But remember what has been achieved. Remember where we were, and how hopeless it was, three short years ago. And remember also that this is very far away from what FG, FF, Irish Water and most of all the Labour Party who did most to try to commodify our human Right2Water wanted to do to us.

We have only just begun.

Be proud and keep going.

We will.

#IANWAE

Barry Cowen’s smugness re: #Right2Water campaign does not hold water

“Oh look at me!!! I’ve made the #Right2Water campaign look foolish!!!”, to paraphrase Fianna Fáil TD and brother of Bertie’s successor, Barry Cowen during the past week.

At an Oireachteas hearing (aka Joint Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services Debate), Cowen asked representatives of the movement if they were in favour of a charge for excessive use of water, to which he was replied in the positive.

Deputy Barry Cowen: I ask the witnesses to answer the following. If this committee was in a position to agree a process by which people who use excessive amounts, in the opinion of this committee, were charged, is Right2Water happy with that?

Mr. Steve Fitzpatrick: Yes.

This led Cowen to go on twitter as though he had somehow convinced a vegetarian to enter a Big Mac eating competition.

After Paul Murphy TD of AAA-PBP accused Cowen of “selective quoting”, The Journal decided to do one of its “fact-check” articles, which in essence served to back up the very picture Cowan was trying to paint, ie one that only pro-Establishment readers would appreciate.

Let’s back up this particular truck, shall we.

First we need to make a clear distinction between what regulating water is meant to do, and what instead our government actually did.

Of COURSE we should be regulating water usage.  It is an important resources and should not be wasted.  But before we do so, we need to identify who is wasting it the most and target the regulation at them.  This clearly brings the private sector in the firing line way before domestic users, but this State has never been led by a Government that would acknowledge this.

Instead, the Fine Gael-led government (yes, I know, with Labour also in tow) sought to establish a revenue stream (pun fully intended) for a new corporate cash-cow known as Irish Water, and began charging the general public long before there was any opportunity to gauge which houses were using excessive amounts of water.

And on top of the specifics of the #Right2Water movement, the main reason it earned itself such incredible public support wasn’t just because of the water issue itself, but also because it was the straw that broke the Irish camel’s back after successive years of austerity following the banking crisis which happened under Bertie Ahern’s, and ultimately Brian Cowen’s, watch.

Even without the most recent poll numbers, when Fianna Fáil party leader and former Minster under Bertie, Micheal Martin eventually has the balls to bring down this current Government and call an election, seeing how the wider voting Irish public sees only two possible parties for leadership, he will be Taoiseach.

Would it be crazy to assume that his government would quickly seek to establish water charges exactly as Fine Gael had done, using the above selective testimony as some kind of justification?  With Cowan as the Minster responsible, no less?  JLP

#IANWAE