Anti-Irish Water campaigners have accused Environment Minister Alan Kelly of morphing into ex-minister Phil Hogan by increasingly “threatening” people who don’t pay their bill.
Right2Water co-ordinator and Unite trade union official Brendan Ogle made the claim during a press conference to launch the group’s fifth national day of action in Dublin on Saturday.
The Labour deputy leader on Monday said that non-payers who try to “pull a fast one” by taking the €100 conservation grant will face “penalties upon penalties”. Mr Ogle yesterday said the comment sounds like the “arrogance” Ireland “sent to Brussels last year”.
“If you listen to Alan Kelly now, it’s bluster, it’s bad temper, it’s arrogance. It’s all the things we sent to Brussels a year ago,” he said.
“Nothing Minister Kelly says is consistent. Look it, the problem the Government has now is the non-payment figures are so large people who have paid are wondering why they bothered.
“I think everyone knows Irish Water is a beaten docket, only the Government parties support it in its current form. The Government parties will not be returned after the next election, and bluff and bluster and threats is just growing this movement.
“It’s just making people more angry and I think that’s visible.”
The comments, echoed by fellow Right2Water campaigner and Mandate trade union general secretary John Douglas, were made as the protest movement announced plans for its fifth day of action.
The group is expecting “tens of thousands” of people to attend the “family-friendly” event in Dublin city centre at 2pm on Saturday, the same weekend as a Right2Water policy platform for prospective candidates to sign-up to is finalised.
Addressing questions over the infamous Jobstown protest last November, which was unaffiliated to the group but saw Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton trapped in a car for hours, Mr Ogle insisted anyone who cannot control themselves should “stay away”.
“Protests happen, some people get carried away, my message is the same as ever for Saturday, if you are so angered by this issue, and we understand anger, stay away. This is a peaceful family-friendly event,” he said.
He claimed the controversy over the incident — which is expected to see 23 people, including Socialist/Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy charged this week — was an “agenda being driven” by certain elements” and a de-facto “trial by media”.
Asked if he or any of the other Right2Water member groups would consider contributing to the legal bills of those facing charges, Mr Ogle side-stepped the issue by saying there have yet to be any charges and that “I’m not going to sit here and pontificate about an event I wasn’t at”.
Meanwhile, the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) has become the latest group to affiliate itself with the Right2Water campaign, joining Unite, Mandate, the CWU, the CPSU, and the OPATSI.
TEEU general secretary Eamon Devoy confirmed he is a former Labour member who left the party after the Mullingar accord with Fine Gael prior to the 2007 general election.
He said he would consider rejoining the party, but that he felt the pre-election pact damaged Labour, helped to breathe life back into Fine Gael, and guaranteed Fianna Fáil was able to win the last Celtic Tiger race to the polls.
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