The magnificent movement of people power which exploded onto the streets across the length and breath of the country in opposition to Irish Water & water charges was an important development in our recent history. It channeled the anger and betrayal felt by citizens after years of neo-liberal policies and austerity budgets, the decimation of public services, & a race to the bottom in wages and conditions. It brought thousands of people into political activity for the first time. It showed that no government can rule without the will of the people, and that protest action can pay.
Against this background we believe that the initiative of the Right2Water unions to try and harness this movement, beyond protests, into a movement for change, was the correct one. We have committed to supporting the policy positions of Right2Change, as a starting point in dismantling the prevailing ideology of the establishment parties who have slavishly implemented economic policies at the behest of the markets.
We believe that society can be organised in a different way, a better way, where the interests of the people are centre stage – the right to housing, a job with decent pay and conditions, access to healthcare when you’re sick, and a pension when you retire. These demands are the bare minimum in a country which has seen the wealth of the top 300 citizens increase by €13.5 billion in the last year alone.
Across our society there is a desperate yearning for change as the parties that have been in power have misused it and a different type of politics must be built. We have pledged to play a part in delivering that, by committing to work with any other parties or individuals who are prepared to break with neo-liberalism, including forming a government, should the numbers allow. We are very clear that we will not play a part in any government with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour.
The role of the the media, & some of the political parties involved, in how the Right2Change initiative has been portrayed over the past week is a stark warning to activists in the communities and unions. The Establishment has a vested interest in trying to undermine this project. They will seek to exaggerate division, to portray chaos and incoherence & to misrepresent what is being attempted. This is a sign of their fear but we must not fall for it.
It must also be said that the opportunism of some of the groupings involved, who diverted this project into a dialogue about voting pacts & transfers, and whether they would or wouldn’t be calling for transfers for each other is regrettable. Electoral pacts were never part of any discussions. It will do nothing for the cause if some groups are prepared to put their own party interests, ahead of those of the general movement. That is why we are contesting this election as independents & will work with other like minded individuals to build the type of grass roots, bottom up politics, that bases itself on empowering people to organise for themselves. This is essential if we are to deliver the change that Ireland deserves & yearns on the eve of the 1916 centenary.
Mick Wallace & Clare Daly