Alan Kelly ‘not’ nervous at voter disaffectation over water

Minister disagrees many water protesters were Labour supporters at last election

Asked his reaction to the finding that a majority of those involved in the Right 2 Water campaign had never protested before, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said: “That wouldn’t surprise me. We haven’t had a huge amount of protest over the last number of years.” Photograph:  Colin Keegan/Collins

Asked his reaction to the finding that a majority of those involved in the Right 2 Water campaign had never protested before, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said: “That wouldn’t surprise me. We haven’t had a huge amount of protest over the last number of years.” Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

 

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has said he was “not at all” nervous about a report finding that 65 per cent of those involved in anti-water charges protests since last October would vote differently in the next general election.

He disagreed that many involved in the protests had been Labour Party supporters at the last general election.

Mr Kelly was reacting to the findings of a survey of more than 2,500 people involved in the anti-water charges campaign published on Tuesday.

Conducted by Dr Rory Hearne of Maynooth University, The Irish Water War, Austerity and the Risen People survey finds the biggest reason people have protested was “exhaustion” with austerity.

Some 2,556 people responded to the survey, which conducted mainly on-line, between December 7th and December 14th, 2014.

‘Useful insight’

The sample size is large enough, writes Dr Hearne, to provide a “useful insight into the views of participants in the ‘water movement’.

Just over half of respondents (53.3 per cent) were male and the majority (61 per cent) were aged between 30 and 50 years.

More than half, 52 per cent, were working full-time.

The survey found 54.4 per cent of respondents had never taken part in protests before.

“Austerity has gone too far” was the most cited reason (59.6 per cent) for protesting, followed by “to stop the future privatisation of water” (58.7 per cent).

Protesting for the “abolition of water charges” was cited by 57.3 per cent, and anger at the State bailout of the banking sector (42.9 per cent).

A majority (65 per cent) said they would change their vote in the next general election, “with the majority of these moving away from government parties to left-wing parties and independents”.

Some 70 per cent who indicated they would change their vote had voted for [current] Government parties in 2011, according to the survey

Dissatisfaction

Dr Hearne said the survey also found a dissatisfaction with the current left and Independent political offering, with 79.6 per cent saying there was a need for a new political movement or party.

Asked his reaction to the finding that a majority of those involved in the Right 2 Water campaign had never protested before, Mr Kelly said: “That wouldn’t surprise me. We haven’t had a huge amount of protest over the last number of years.”

Asked whether he would be “nervous” at any of the findings, he said: “Not at all. I believe there is a group of people who, for various different reasons, are opposed to measures brought forward by the Government. There’s nothing unusual about that.”

He “wouldn’t agree” there was a move away from the Government parties, particularly the Labour Party, among those involved in the water protests.

“There are many different groups of people who are protesting. Some people...are engaging in political activity maybe for the first time... many of the faces...they certainly wouldn’t be people I’d have ever associated with the Labour Party, and I have been around the Labour Party all my life.”