The protracted pantomime over government formation has somewhat overshadowed the gravity of what occurred in February’s general election. With regime support at historic lows, Oireachtas Retort looks at how some middle ground commentators continue to dismiss the movement against Irish Water.
As soon as ballot boxes opened in February it quickly became clear that voters had delivered a kick in the teeth that neither politicians nor their media priests had predicted. The result genuinely came out of the blue for Ireland’s ruling class and we should be proud that none of them could attend 1916 events with their head held high.
While most of us settled into a blissful 70 days of no government, the future of Irish Water quickly emerged at the centre of political horse trading. A fact that was met with utter disbelief by the very same individuals and organisations that called the election so wrong. For most of 2015 the only people raising the issue were those opposed to charges. With an election looming, the government were keen to avoid Irish Water, hoping spin around the budget and recovery would see people fall back into line.
While media feasted on controversy around Siteserv, they did little to acknowledge that the scandal only came to light because of our movement. The Eurostat ruling and boycott came as hammer blows but even as late as February, public broadcaster RTÉ failed to include any question of water in their TV general election debates.
The pro-abolition majority since elected to Dáil Éireann remains scarcely reflected in the media. Joe Duffy went into overdrive while newspapers published dozens of identical whiny columns with no counter view. It should come as no surprise that most commentators found in their heart more righteous anger over the potential abolishment of water charges than they ever mustered in opposition to austerity.
We have seen a slight of hand where, invariably, it is government being faced down by ordinary citizens, rather than the manner in which Irish Water was established, that is branded as “everything wrong with Irish politics”. That several commentators also framed government inability to impose measures on an unwilling population as “a failure of politics” is telling. This misdirection passes for serious analysis. The official script remains the same with absolutely no consideration for the questions our movement has posed.
On the more sensational side the general theme is “wah wah, why are we still talking about water when there is homelessness and a broken health service”. This refrain has been repeated across hours of broadcast, opinion columns and letters pages. Part of this is motivated by finding themselves on the losing side and part is an unspoken unease that voters were dictating the political agenda. Underlying all of this though is the fear that protesting works.
Irish Water had been the centre piece of a grassroots movement that was pivotal not just in annihilating the government but in reshaping expectations for years to come. This fact remains carefully unacknowledged however and even before the fate of charges has been settled, the counter revolution has begun.
The intention is to divide people by playing on ignorance, fear and slander. Alternatives are dismissed as populism because the opposite of course is continued elitism. There are those intent on the continued plunder of resources and rights of those who live here but they cannot succeed without the compliance of a soft middle who are appealed to as mature adults while infantilising protesters, their demands and politics, as nothing more than an unruly tantrum.
Supporters of the regime seek to paint themselves as responsible, as informed, as law abiding democrats prepared to stand up and do the right thing in contrast to the feckless ne’er-do-well rouges of protest rabble. See most recently when the European Commission leaked a statement for RTÉ to spin before Lynn Boylan had a chance to publish her work.
Olivia O’Leary on radio claimed paying her bill was itself a protest at how the country has been mismanaged. These people have quite literally just been betrayed by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on the issue but carry on believing the fairytale about upgrades, affordability and no privatisation. Fools and their money are easily parted and as we head into a sham consultation period it will become evermore clear that the primary objective, far from conservation or public service, is to establish a revenue stream that can been extracted on the pretence of water.
So to the adults we say this. There is nothing clever about complying with Irish Water. There is no reason to believe, given the details of its establishment, that Irish Water was going to work even if it was intended to.
There is no evidence that Phil Hogan, Denis O’Brien and a team of parasite consultants are on a mission to save the environment. There is nothing responsible or reasonable about carrying on with a fiction when in full position of the facts. No credibility with awareness of in whose interest this state is run that Irish Water is going to be different.
These same responsible ones did not see the protests coming. These informed ones did not see the election coming either. Having continued to delude themselves in an effort to deceive us, these reasonable people are only opportunistically waking up to what has happened in housing, in health, when the rest of us, having withstood the coercion of politicians, media, gardaí and masked security men, already see the same coming for water.
Photo by Jamie Goldrick.