Fianna Fáil and water charges: the record

Socialist Worker 393

Fianna Fáil and water charges: the record

One day you open the papers and Fianna Fáil are against water charges- the next day they are for the charges and for pursuing people for unpaid bills. Fianna Fáil are playing a game of propping up the Fine Gael government while trying to play at being an ‘opposition’.

5 January 2016 Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen says his party plans to suspend water charges yet on 16th January in his Ard Fheis speech, Micheál Martin says: “We will scrap Irish Water, and the failed, loss-making charge which funds it”

On 5th February in a Fianna Fáil election campaign video, Waterford candidate (and now TD) Mary Butler makes the commitment “We will scrap Irish Water and the loss-making charge that funds it”.

The Fianna Fail election manifesto launched on 11 February 2016 committed to abolishing water charges and Irish Water. There was no reference to suspension, reintroduction, a timeline or time limit –However the exact same day, Micheál Martin promoted a policy of suspension:“We will…abolish Irish Water and scrap water charges for the next five years.”

On 17 February Micheál Martin appears on RTE’s Six One News where he says  his party’s policy is abolition yet only two days later, on RTE Radio One’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, he says Fianna Fáil would suspend water charges for five years, and then reintroduce them.

In March and during April, statements by Fianna Fáil focus on a position of favouring a five-year suspension.

When Fianna Fáil’s submission to the expert commission on water services was leaked to the media the party was found proposing the permanent abolition (not suspension) of water charges, and the retention of Irish Water.

How are we to make sense of these twists and turns? We have to understand that Fianna Fáil are a Tory Party but with a peculiar history- their radical reputation after the Civil War meant they could use nationalist rhetoric and the promise of economic advance to secure a working class base- everytime the economy was bad they blamed the ‘Brits’; anytime it was good they claimed it was because of Fianna Fail.

This meant that although Fianna Fáil are a party of the 1% they are experts at winning over ordinary people- they talk out of both sides of their mouths. In the last few years this strategy has broken down as more and more people turn away from the establishment parties.

Fianna Fail realise how popular the water movement is and faced with mass protests and a mass boycott of 73%  they feel they have to relate to that movement to rebuild their base. But if Fianna Fail manage to build a working class base they only do so to blind that base to their real agenda- serving the developers and bankers.

After all it was Fianna Fail who bailed out the banks and who first came up with water charges.

We need to expose them at every turn explaining to other workers that these people are not our friends but silver tongued enemies of working people.

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