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What party will change this country's absurd inequalities? We already know who won’t

Brendan Ogle of Right2Water writes that by 2016 the movement wants to have changed the conversation in Irish politics.

Image: Sam Boal via

WHILE 16% OF polled citizens believe they are better off than last year, 40% feel worse off and 39% see no difference.

For a large proportion of the people of this country, talk of ‘recovery’ is a sick joke. For the 77 families homeless in Dublin it sure as hell is. What an indictment of the politics of austerity.

Statistically the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ has never been greater. That is what Neo-Liberalism demands and we in Ireland deliver on every demand it makes. Cheerleaders for wealth inequality in Europe. Is this to be the way of it? Or can we have a change?

Over 99 years after the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read from the steps of the GPO, and less than a year away from the Centenary of that historic declaration of an egalitarian Republic, some of us contend that it is time for progressives to unite, to act in our collective interests for once and to vindicate our ‘right to change’ Ireland. It is time to deliver on an egalitarian and inclusive Republic which cherishes all of its children equally – at last.

Argument won

Tomorrow Irish citizens will again throng the streets of Dublin to give expression to our human Right2Water. We will peacefully represent the vast majority of citizens linked to the public water supply who refuse to co-operate with Irish Water, which many believe is nothing more than a front for the future privatisation of our human Right2Water.

The argument has been won and the Government battered on the issue. We will not allow Irish Water to survive. But what next?

The anti-water charges movement has been the biggest mobilisation of people power in the history of the State. More than 100,000 people came to the first demonstration which is the equivalent of more than 7 million people marching on Washington in the United States or 1.6 million people marching in London.

The second demonstration on November 1st was even bigger with 200,000 people demonstrating in 106 separate locations around the country. What’s become very evident is that this movement is more than just about water, it’s about a vision for a better, fairer society.


I believe we have a right to change. We have a right to change a country whose ‘parliament’ doesn’t function, except as agents for speculation, privatisation, profit and greed.

We have a right to change a country where homelessness is rife, and many who have homes have been burdened by an odious, illegitimate, illegal and unsustainable debt.

We have a right to change a country where we vote in referenda only to be forced to vote again until the result favoured by the financial elites and their agenda is delivered.

We have a right to change a country where citizens are forced to take 41% of European banking debt even though those citizens represent less than 1% of the EU populace and played no part in the creation of that debt.

We have a right to change a country where politicians seeking Government twist and spin routinely and joke about the necessity and normality of such antics, where ‘promises’ and ‘pledges’ are nothing more than meaningless words.

We have a right to change a country where our Government representatives in Europe deliver nothing but sickening sycophancy to European leaders building a European Union that is anti-democratic, financially unsustainable and where the needs and democratic mandates of small nations are treated as annoyances to be mocked, while Germany in particular sets an economic pace aimed solely at Germanic interests. And despite this talk of ‘recovery’ from the usual vested interests it’s all getting worse.

Treble taxes

We currently have a health system where the foreseeable retirement of one surgeon leads to the abandonment of a lifesaving transplant program necessary to save lives. Where hospital patients are more likely to be given a trolley than a bed and where the promotion of private medicine and healthcare as an ideology seems to dwarf the core human objective of any health system – to provide top quality healthcare based solely on need and universally free at the point of use. We certainly have a right to change that.

We have a labour market where workers pay taxes, double taxes and treble taxes like the water tax, consumption taxes and universal taxes, excise taxes and property taxes.

We have ‘free labour’ introduced by the Labour Party (Jobsbridge) and a race to the bottom in terms of wage rates, pensions, terms and conditions of employment and more and more precarious and insecure work. And sitting alongside that we have some of the richest employers in the world paying just one third of the European average on tax like Employers’ PRSI, effectively denying €8bn annually to our exchequer for public services and income.

This additional revenue could be spent boosting the small and medium indigenous sector thereby spreading the wealth and stimulating some ‘real growth’ for a change. We have a right to change that. We have a right to demand tax justice and fairness.

Wealth inequality 

According to Oxfam, 2016 will be the first time in human history that the top 1% of the world’s population will have accumulated more wealth than the other 99% of us put together. And Ireland is right up there, showing Europe the way in terms of wealth inequality. We have a right to change that. An obligation in fact.

Will Renua change these absurd inequalities? Or the Social Democrats?  We already know Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour won’t. Or is this plethora of ‘new parties’ just the same people changing their clothes to keep their places in a phantom parliament?

Right2Water are not a political movement, but it is a ‘movement’ and it has done something unique in Irish politics. It has developed policy principles from the communities up instead of imposing them from the top down. Haven’t heard about them yet? You will!

By 2016 we want to have changed the conversation in Irish politics. At least let us have a proper conversation on substance for a change. And if the Right2Water movement, or even a chunk of it, gets behind this new bottom up way of doing politics it will enhance your democracy. It might even vindicate your ‘right to change’ Ireland.

That journey continues tomorrow in Dublin where we are expecting tens of thousands of people to march the streets.

Brendan Ogle is a Unite official and Right2Water coordinator.

Read: Right2Water wants to scrap water charges and hike spending by €9.4bn. Here’s how it will pay for it>


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