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Brian Stanley Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland
On the same side?

Heard about the 'bizarre' water charges protest outside a Sinn Féin TD's office?

Aren’t they on the same side?

THE ANTI-AUSTERITY ALLIANCE staged a protest outside the office of a Sinn Féin TD last week calling on the party to clarify its position in relation to water charges.

Despite Paul Murphy telling that the AAA could support a Sinn Fein government, party members in Portlaoise held a demonstration with other anti-water charges campaigners outside the office of Laois-Offaly TD Brian Stanley last Wednesday.

The small protest involved around 12 people and lasted 20 minutes outside Stanley’s office in the Laois town. Protests also took place outside the offices of local Labour senator John Whelan and Fine Gael Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

The protesters called on all three politicians to state clearly if their parties would abolish Irish Water, water charges and return management of water provision to local authorities.

brian stanley office Brian Stanley's constituency office in Portlaoise (File photo) Google Street View Google Street View

Stanley said the demonstration was “ludicrous and bizarre” insisting he had opposed water charges since the 1980s and his party’s position is clear.

But Ray Fitzpatrick, the AAA’s coordinator in Laois, claimed that Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan’s recent involvement in a European Parliament report, which recommended progressive water charges regime, indicated the party’s position had changed.

“Sinn Féin has had loads of opportunities to come clean on this and every time they appear to come clean on it there is always something left hanging in the background,” he said.

He called on Stanley, as Sinn Féin’s environment spokesperson, to state clearly that his party will make this a red line issue at the next general election and, if in government, it will abolish Irish Water and water charges.

As well as AAA members with the party’s We Won’t Pay Campaign, activists from Mountmellick Mobile Bin Your Bill Group and Portarlington Against Double Water Tax action also took part.

Stanley insisted he had been involved in opposing domestic water charges since the 1980s and said his and Sinn Féin’s positions are clear.

My understanding is that ostensibly the protest was supposed to be about water charges. It’s ludicrous and it’s bizarre. I don’t know how in anyway it would further the anti-domestic water charges movement.

Fitzpatrick said Sinn Féin needed to be clearer on its position and stop “fudging”. Stanley insisted the protest lacked any “political savvy”.

In April, Stanley and finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty published a bill to abolish Irish Water and water charges and said it would be the first act of a Sinn Féin-led government.

However, Sinn Féin has faced criticism from other left-wing parties for not calling for an all-out boycott of water charges.

SONY DSC Anti-water charges campaigners also protested outside Labour senator John Whelan's office in Portlaoise. Ray Fitzpatrick Ray Fitzpatrick

Last year, Doherty, leader Gerry Adams, and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said they would pay their water charges before reversing their positions and boycotting their bills.

After Sinn Féin narrowly lost last year’s Dublin South-West by-election to AAA’s Paul Murphy, who campaigned on a boycott, its candidate Cathal King admitted his party’s stance on the issue had confused voters.

Despite this, Murphy told earlier this month that the new Anti-Austerity Alliance – People Before Profit party would be prepared to support Sinn Féin in government: / YouTube

Read: Fianna Fáil’s water charges plan a “reminder” bills will eventually skyrocket

Read: The man from Ballyhea Says No is running for the Dáil

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