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Thread: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

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    Default The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    There is agreement that the anti-water charges movement is largely community based and spontaneous. However, there are political tendencies within it that have been around for a while in previous campaigns - in particular the anti-property tax campaign - and there is a history in Ireland of campaigns against tax.

    The parties most associated with the campaign are the Socialist Party and People Before Profit. Then there is Right2Water, which includes lefts in the Trade Unions, including Ogle, and Daly and Wallace.

    Direct Democracy Ireland has been mentioned, and undoubtedly, as usual, the Special Branch are in there, one way or another.

    Sinn Fein's support has been luke warm, with broad agreement to the formation of Irish Water and to charges. It was only after 200,000 people came out on the street that

    It is clear that participation in the campaign is much broader than the above - it is to some extent cross class and cross party, although strongest and most militant support is from "can't pay"areas.

    Enda Kenny says "It's not just about water." This is clearly true - but what is it about ?

    I have one AAA leaflet in front of me, distributed at the march a few weeks back. It says that by sticking together people can defeat the water charges. There is no mention of socialism or any explanation of why the charge has been imposed, in terms of neo-liberalism, and economic crisis, nor of the threat of privatisation.

    Lowest common denominator would describe it.

    This SP account of how the Tallaght by-election was won is interesting - the SP liquidated itself and its election campaign into an anti-water charge campaign with an election on the side.

    So far, Kenny's "back down" is anything but, and Fine Gael is still determined to push this through, to the extent of talking about armed guards for Ministers, and continued exploration of sneaky ways to try and get the charges paid, and ultimately privatise water, come what may.

    Things appear to be moving towards a General Election. Will it be fought on the single issue of water charges ? Water is only one battle. What is the strategy for winning th war ?

    http://socialistparty.ie/2014/11/how...-for-the-left/

    May’s elections indicate change

    The changed situation was reflected in the local and European elections last May where the Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA), which the Socialist Party is part of, saw 14 councillors elected in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. Some other lefts and ‘Independents’ (reflecting the disgust at the political establishment) also did well. The main gains, however, were made by Sinn Fein, which went from 54 councillors to 159, and from having no MEPs to getting three out of the country’s total of eleven.
    Sinn Fein won over 15% of the vote in the local elections and close to 20% in the European election. Alongside the unpopularity of the government, this put Sinn Fein in pole position to become the biggest party in the country, with the prospect of being part of the next national government.
    On 9 October, the day before the Dublin South West By-Election, a poll indicated that Sinn Fein had increased its national support by 4%, up to 24%.
    Sinn Fein placed in ’pole position’ to win by-election

    The growth of Sinn Fein, as well as the vote it received in the Dublin South West area in May’s elections, caused all commentators to predict a Sinn Fein victory. Paddy Power bookmakers put Sinn Fein candidate Cathal King 1/25 odds on favourite to win.
    There are just less than 40,000 houses in Dublin South West. In May’s local elections, the AAA did not stand a candidate in the Terenure / Templeogue area of the constituency, where Sinn Féin won 12%. They also beat the AAA in two other wards in the by-election constituency, by 32% to 22% in Tallaght Central and by 52% to 12% in South Tallaght.
    We knew that winning the by-election would be difficult, but we felt that if we were able to make water charges the dominant issue we could feature strongly because of our record and our fighting stance on this issue, in contrast to Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein has not seriously fought any of the unjust taxes or charges of the last twenty years. While the party said that they opposed water charges, it refused to advocate mass non-payment. So, essentially, while Paul Murphy’s campaign always began by attacking the establishment, from the very start of the election we also had to take up Sinn Fein very sharply.
    Setting the agenda

    The date for the by-election was only fixed for 10 October when the writ was formally moved in the Dail 17 September. We didn’t have the luxury of waiting for the formal election date announcement. So while election rules meant we could not display posters until then, we launched our campaign with six street stalls on 6 September and our door knocking started on Monday 8 September.
    Our first leaflet began dropping through doors in the middle of September. The main headline was, “Scrap Water Charges & Austerity” and on the back under a headline stated, “A movement you can trust”, we set out the case for the AAA and Paul. We also said: “Unfortunately Sinn Fein refused to promise to abolish water charges if in government; rejected the AAA proposal to establish an anti-austerity bloc on South Dublin County Council and instead did a deal with a pro-austerity Labour Party… [Sinn Fein] has 14 TDs and over 150 councillors but has failed to use those positions to wage an active struggle against austerity.” We concluded that a new fighting movement for working class people was needed.
    Exposing Sinn Fein’s empty radicalism

    This argument, skilfully put to people during our daily street stalls and on all door to door activities, began to ratchet-up the pressure on Sinn Fein. We successfully used the comments on the radio by a leading spokesperson for Sinn Fein (on 11 September), that they would not make the abolition of water charges a precondition on entering the next government, as further proof that they could not be trusted.
    Water charges are a huge issue and will cost many working class families more than €500 a year. Bills were due to arrive in January but the actual billing period started from 1 October. Irish Water, the new company established to oversee the charge, began sending out “information” packs to each household in the country.
    Emphasising the water charges struggle

    At the same time, there was no enthusiasm for the by-election. So on the stalls and on the doors, we did not start discussions with people by mentioning “canvassing” or “by-election” but said that we were from the newly established AAA and were organising against the water charges. This made a real connection with people. In the course of the conversation we would say that Paul Murphy was standing in the by-election and how voters could use this fact to put all the parties, including Sinn Fein, under pressure over water charges.
    We also organised public meetings on how to fight the water charges, throughout the constituency. These were attended by 600 people approximately, with an additional 150 attending two street meetings we organised. A special “All you need to know about the water charges” AAA leaflet, with only a brief mention of the by-election was distributed and helped to establish the credentials of the Anti Austerity Alliance as the foremost group fighting on the issue.
    Initially, a key message in our election literature was that unlike with the Property Tax introduced the year before, the water charge cannot be deducted from people’s income. We also made this important point on eight, sixty-foot banners that we displayed publicly across the constituency. This meant that people were in a more powerful position, could refuse to pay the charge and make a fight out of it. This realisation, which only our campaign publicised, was essential in giving people confidence.
    Sinn Fein forced on the defensive

    We understand it was Sinn Fein’s intention to fight the election on the issue of housing, which is also a vital issue that we featured heavily. However, when they went into working class areas, because of our early start they were met with a ‘wall of water’, i.e. people asking them about their position on water charges. Sinn Fein was not able to run the campaign they wanted to, but instead immediately were on the defensive.
    Sinn Fein emerged strengthened from the local and European elections, so we knew we had to try to interrupt the electoral drift towards them by using the example of the water charges to sow doubts about them being a different, genuinely anti-austerity party. We pointed out that they are going in the same direction as the Labour Party, whose ‘anti-cuts’ posturing before the last general elections allowed the party to make big gains. In that context, presenting that the AAA was a step towards launching a new movement that would really fight for all working class people was a very important underlying argument in our campaign.
    An active campaign, fought on many levels

    Each morning of the election campaign, AAA supporters held anti-water charges banners alongside rush hour traffic in key locations and gave out leaflets. This was seen by thousands and got a huge response. We ran daily street stalls and each Saturday we had multiple stalls throughout the whole constituency.
    Each night we had three separate canvass centres, organising simultaneous door knocking in the three distinct parts of the constituency. People were meeting our campaign in many different locations and situations and this created a powerful momentum.
    When the announcement of the election was made, we had more than twenty poster teams ready to act and they very quickly erected 1,200 large posters. Most of the posters ran the slogan, “Rock the government and the opposition parties to make them: SCRAP WATER CHARGES”.
    We were the first campaign to put up many posters and this helped put water charges at the centre of the by-election and also boosted Paul’s profile. After the initial poster run, we used two additional batches of 600 slightly smaller diamond posters, one in the second last week of the campaign and the other in the last week. Throughout the campaign we also erected large billboards and hung up sixty foot and forty foot long banners throughout the constituency.

    Make REAL Change

    One of our diamond posters pre-emptively parodied a Sinn Fein poster that we knew they would re-issue. Last May, in order to tap into people’s dissatisfaction with Labour in austerity coalition government, Sinn Fein produced an effective diamond poster that simply said, “Make the Change – Vote Sinn Fein”. We knew they would use this poster again but before they could get going we produced our own, “Make the REAL Change – Vote 1 Paul Murphy AAA”. This meant that every one of Sinn Fein’s posters potentially reminded people of our criticism of Sinn Fein.




    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    There is all sorts around the campaign now at this stage. It's political capital for anyone looking to gain votes, as I had pointed out to me today Mary Lou was willing to pay at €500 or so but now won't at €160. There's pure politics at foot from the trade unions involved as well, some of those unions involved are the same ones that would vote against every social partnership deal at congress knowing full well that once the bigger unions carried it, the weighted voting would carry the day. It's the same with this, they look to be doing something but can they really affect change?

    Also on a side note, ICTU are meeting tomorrow to consider a position on the climbdown and the current sitting ICTU president is front and centre of the Right2Water in his role as Mandate General Secretary. How does that sit if congress decides the climb down is acceptable!!

    I'm in extremely cynical form with it all tonight, it's not helped with the claims that the Governent listened to the people and then run from the Dail to do media interviews, while Barry Cowen makes a speech that is high on vote grabbing and low on solutions.

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Launchbury View Post
    There is all sorts around the campaign now at this stage. It's political capital for anyone looking to gain votes, as I had pointed out to me today Mary Lou was willing to pay at €500 or so but now won't at €160. There's pure politics at foot from the trade unions involved as well, some of those unions involved are the same ones that would vote against every social partnership deal at congress knowing full well that once the bigger unions carried it, the weighted voting would carry the day. It's the same with this, they look to be doing something but can they really affect change?

    Also on a side note, ICTU are meeting tomorrow to consider a position on the climbdown and the current sitting ICTU president is front and centre of the Right2Water in his role as Mandate General Secretary. How does that sit if congress decides the climb down is acceptable!!

    I'm in extremely cynical form with it all tonight, it's not helped with the claims that the Governent listened to the people and then run from the Dail to do media interviews, while Barry Cowen makes a speech that is high on vote grabbing and low on solutions.
    It's enclosing the commons, making water into a commodity for sale.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    One thing being missed in talk of the scale of protests / move away from parties is maybe a degree of shift away from dependence on clientalism towards some sort of conciousness or perhaps people believing in power to achieve something themselves. This is not the entrepreneurship we were supposed to be encouraging! For all the money Irish Water have spent on manipulation, they have in fact been the trigger for turning many of their customers into citizens. Lots of uncertainty in years to come but whatever happens with water we have a very different landscape to build on. None of this will happen today or tomorrow but long term trends are going in a few different direction from where we are now. This is a clunky comparison but you're also seeing something emerge like Italy where Grillo's movement has this idea of il caste - the caste. It is not the same here as such but even if the nuance isn't quite worked out, people very explicitly recognise the nexus of political, business and media power against them. For now at least, it can be defined as people and institutions in whom there zero trust.

    What I meant earlier about social media is beyond the role in mobilising, (counter)propaganda and a huge degree of self-learning (for better or worse), is we are almost daily getting videos with half a million views in an evening before breaking into papers & wider debate. This is happening with all sorts of stories. The climbdown on PPS numbers could seriously be credited to four or five people on twitter. Also, you see with reaction to Paul Murphy, in asking him to condemn this or take responsibility for that, they don't understand that yes there are steering groups and something that looks like leadership here and there but things are much more fluid and networked than any sort of traditional hiarcrchy. So many people are just doing their own thing. One lad down the road here standing outside topaz - something that has been seen around the country. I have never seen so many poems. Women singing on housing estates. All sorts and big changes.

    This photo was in the Irish Times today. Look at the different and diverse crowd, shouting with one voice. The message, the guard, the minister.






    Rory Hearne is worth listening to here

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. FIVE View Post
    One thing being missed in talk of the scale of protests / move away from parties is maybe a degree of shift away from dependence on clientalism towards some sort of conciousness or perhaps people believing in power to achieve something themselves. This is not the entrepreneurship we were supposed to be encouraging! For all the money Irish Water have spent on manipulation, they have in fact been the trigger for turning many of their customers into citizens. Lots of uncertainty in years to come but whatever happens with water we have a very different landscape to build on. None of this will happen today or tomorrow but long term trends are going in a few different direction from where we are now. This is a clunky comparison but you're also seeing something emerge like Italy where Grillo's movement has this idea of il caste - the caste. It is not the same here as such but even if the nuance isn't quite worked out, people very explicitly recognise the nexus of political, business and media power against them. For now at least, it can be defined as people and institutions in whom there zero trust.

    What I meant earlier about social media is beyond the role in mobilising, (counter)propaganda and a huge degree of self-learning (for better or worse), is we are almost daily getting videos with half a million views in an evening before breaking into papers & wider debate. This is happening with all sorts of stories. The climbdown on PPS numbers could seriously be credited to four or five people on twitter. Also, you see with reaction to Paul Murphy, in asking him to condemn this or take responsibility for that, they don't understand that yes there are steering groups and something that looks like leadership here and there but things are much more fluid and networked than any sort of traditional hiarcrchy. So many people are just doing their own thing. One lad down the road here standing outside topaz - something that has been seen around the country. I have never seen so many poems. Women singing on housing estates. All sorts and big changes.

    This photo was in the Irish Times today. Look at the different and diverse crowd, shouting with one voice. The message, the guard, the minister.





    Rory Hearne is worth listening to here
    One woman had a sign, much reported, saying "we are not second class citizens, we are people"

    So there is something more than just individual rights of citizens going on here, there is "the people." There is a sea change in peoples' thinking, and it is to some extent a unity against the common enemy of the government, its cronies and the EU/IMF bodies and oligarchs behind it.

    I hear that Hearne picked up on the non-constitutional "plebiscite" scam Kenny's proposed - a classic of far right governments.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    The minister is of course Labour's (and Limerick's) Jan O'Sullivan, who would probably be addressing the crowd through a loud hailer if Labour had not gone into government.

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Richardbouvet View Post
    The minister is of course Labour's (and Limerick's) Jan O'Sullivan, who would probably be addressing the crowd through a loud hailer if Labour had not gone into government.
    That is a big "if"
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Launchbury View Post
    There is all sorts around the campaign now at this stage. It's political capital for anyone looking to gain votes, as I had pointed out to me today Mary Lou was willing to pay at €500 or so but now won't at €160. There's pure politics at foot from the trade unions involved as well, some of those unions involved are the same ones that would vote against every social partnership deal at congress knowing full well that once the bigger unions carried it, the weighted voting would carry the day. It's the same with this, they look to be doing something but can they really affect change?
    That is shown in the approach which the Socialist Party describes, that I quoted in the OP. In fairness to them, the water charges issue is one that exposed Sinn Fein's essential political centrism and willingness to go along with Troika requests.

    However, the single issue campaign run by the SP, and the SP's use of a front organisation, obscuring its supposedly revolutionary politics in order to position itself for electoral success, is cynical and opportunist.
    Did the word socialism appear anywhere in Murphy's election literature I wonder ? So what solution did he advance other than "don't pay" ?

    Also on a side note, ICTU are meeting tomorrow to consider a position on the climbdown and the current sitting ICTU president is front and centre of the Right2Water in his role as Mandate General Secretary. How does that sit if congress decides the climb down is acceptable!!
    What was the outcome of this ? By "the clmbdown" do you mean the Government's current position on Irish Water? I wouldn't call it a climbdown myself. No constitutional barrier to privatisation, keeping Irish Water as is, and some tinkering with prices. Also some very nasty stuff like potential evication for council tenants and landlords being leaned out to fraudulently steal from deposits.

    I'm in extremely cynical form with it all tonight, it's not helped with the claims that the Governent listened to the people and then run from the Dail to do media interviews, while Barry Cowen makes a speech that is high on vote grabbing and low on solutions.
    They really night as well merge at this stage, FF and FG.

    Kenny, and Fine Gael, know that they are in a battle to prise the middle ground away from the left.

    Murphy and the Socialist Party do not realise that, as the extent of SP ambition is a few more reps in the Dail the next time around.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    Cflower, I don't actually know what ICTU came up with I will have a nosey. I'd still call what happened on Wednesday a climbdown in terms of fees anyway.

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Launchbury View Post
    Cflower, I don't actually know what ICTU came up with I will have a nosey. I'd still call what happened on Wednesday a climbdown in terms of fees anyway.
    It was certainly a retreat, but an orderly one, holding all the essential positions for a renewed attack in due course.

    It would be good to hear what ICTU decided.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    Quote Originally Posted by C. Flower View Post
    It was certainly a retreat, but an orderly one, holding all the essential positions for a renewed attack in due course.

    It would be good to hear what ICTU decided.
    I had a dig around there, there is nothing new on the ICTU website or twitter about the charges. I had read it on twitter so I'm going to take the assumption that someone got SIPTU and ICTU mixed up given the SIPTU statement in the last couple of days

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Launchbury View Post
    I had a dig around there, there is nothing new on the ICTU website or twitter about the charges. I had read it on twitter so I'm going to take the assumption that someone got SIPTU and ICTU mixed up given the SIPTU statement in the last couple of days
    Does that mean that ICTU does not have a position on water charges ?
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Maidir Le: Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    I attended a local anti water rates march in Waterford this afternoon; it was called for and organised by the anti water meter task force group; the march only attracted about 400 people; poor turn out I know' reason I put down for the bad turn out is the politics of some people involved; prior to march starting I happened to over hear a few people saying that they don't want any political party or trade union involved in supporting protests; what they don't realeaze is when they seek to exclude people based on if they're a member of a trade union or political party; when they call a local march under their banner they a lot of people won't go; before the nationwide right2water marches on November 1st; on their Facebook anti water meter task force put out argument's that anyone involved in political party or trade union shouldn't speak at any platform; that day at local right2water march they booed/jeered and blew horns whistles when local reps ( John Halligan) + ( David Cullinane) spoke; this politics some people have of not wanting trade unions or political parties attending marches I don't get; and I say that as someone who's not a member of any group.

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    Default Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    The following proposal has been circulated throughout the anti-water charges movement in Ireland. My personal view would be for replicating the kind of structure we have in Cobh with the local estate/street groups making the decisions about how to organise against meter installations in their estate and then sending reps to a Cobh-wide committee that coordinates action at town-wide level and facilitates communication but does not dictate to the local estate groups. So nationally more of a coordination federation rather than a centralised campaign like the CAHWT.

    We tried to frame our proposal to highlight the importance of this type of organising and thereby attract people who are also interested in that as a concrete priority.

    We are bringing a bus up from Cobh for the 10 Dec protest and would encourage anyone interested in this proposal to take the opportunity to talk to Cobh people and see what we are like (not just more seasoned activists like myself and assuming you can find us in the massive crowd...).

    And of course anyone involved in a group organising along similar lines and wants to discuss how we might collaborate on a national level should contact us formally through our email address.



    Cobh Say No to Austerity calls on all local Anti-Water Charges campaigns to come together on a national basis.

    We have built a successful and militant local campaign in Cobh based on the self-organisation of local streets and estates to block the installation of water meters and oppose the Water Charges. There is a delegate structure to a Cobh-wide coordinating committee, which we have found a very effective and democratic way of organising. This has given us enormous strength in terms of shared decision making and accountability. It has also meant that we have been more effective in acting together. We believe that this is something that should be built on nationally and want to discuss and organise with all those who share similar aims. This delegated national meeting can discuss all proposals to develop and broaden this campaign politically.

    It is now important to share experiences from localities throughout Ireland and to build a national coordinating body. We are contacting you in the hope that you are interested in meeting to establish this body.

    We propose the following as the basis for a national campaign:

    * For the immediate and complete abolition of water charges
    * For the immediate disbanding of Irish Water
    * Opposition to the installation of water meters as a charging device
    * Boycott of registration and payment of Water bills
    * For a safe water supply owned and operated by citizens for citizens and not for profit

    We propose holding regional meetings to discuss and agree a way forward and to set up delegate based coordinating bodies. We propose a delegated national meeting be held as soon as possible and certainly before Christmas. Please contact [email protected]

    In solidarity
    Alan Gibson
    for Cobh Says No coordinating committee

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    Default Re: Maidir Le: Re: The Politics of the Irish Anti-Water Charges Movement

    Quote Originally Posted by La Chime View Post
    I attended a local anti water rates march in Waterford this afternoon; it was called for and organised by the anti water meter task force group; the march only attracted about 400 people; poor turn out I know' reason I put down for the bad turn out is the politics of some people involved; prior to march starting I happened to over hear a few people saying that they don't want any political party or trade union involved in supporting protests; what they don't realeaze is when they seek to exclude people based on if they're a member of a trade union or political party; when they call a local march under their banner they a lot of people won't go; before the nationwide right2water marches on November 1st; on their Facebook anti water meter task force put out argument's that anyone involved in political party or trade union shouldn't speak at any platform; that day at local right2water march they booed/jeered and blew horns whistles when local reps ( John Halligan) + ( David Cullinane) spoke; this politics some people have of not wanting trade unions or political parties attending marches I don't get; and I say that as someone who's not a member of any group.
    This argument is at the bottom very right wing, although unconsciously. The capitalist establishment has the media, the police force, financial resources, control over employment and housing, in its hands. All the working class/ those without wealth have against that is their far greater numbers. But unless the large numbers of people are organised coherently, and have a political alternative to the status quo, they remain pretty well powerless.

    I don't see much difference from the "no parties" outlook to the "lustration" of communists and socialists in Eastern Europe at US behest. Ballyhea has taken this approach and in so doing has found itself mainly associated politically with the likes of Declan Ganley and Gurdgiev. That is hardly a non-political brand.

    Do Direct Democracy Ireland claim not to be a poltical party ? Who decides who can take part or not ? It is toxic and should be disputed (patient argument and reasonable offers e.g. TU and party political banners only at the back of the march, no giving out party placards to non-members/supporters).

    Right2Water are Union based and perhaps its best to focus efforts there.

    To a certain extent in the past I've blamed the behaviour of the left in opportunistically overrunning bottom up campaigns and movements with ready made posters etc. for this "anti-politics" thing, but increasingly I think it's a kind of "third force" politics that could if not challenged very quickly turn right.

    Another reason for a smallish turnout may be that people are "saving themselves" for 10th December.

    I hope that was it. It is also possible that some people genuinely feel that the Governments assurances on lower cost are enough.
    Last edited by C. Flower; 22-11-2014 at 04:34 PM.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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