Anti-water-charges group split on future of staff if Irish Water goes
Leading members of the main anti-water-charges group are openly split over the future of Irish Water and the prospect of making hundreds of workers unemployed.
Sinn Féin has admitted that it does not know what will replace Irish Water in the event of its abolition - but admitted that the process is likely to involve compulsory redundancies.
However, two other leading members of the 'Right2Change' movement, trade unionist Brendan Ogle of Unite and TD Paul Murphy, rejected the suggestion of job losses among the 650 directly employed staff.
The future of the workers at the public utility is now subject to the most significant split to date in the movement.
Sinn Féin strategist and Dublin Mid-West TD Eoin Ó Broin said that his party wanted to establish an independent commission to examine the future of Irish Water.
"I think if you set up an independent commission and ask it to look at the best model of public ownership, then I do think there is a responsibility to accept its recommendations when it does come back," Mr Ó Broin told RTÉ's 'This Week' programme.
"Again, we would have to wait for the commission to make its recommendations, but I expect there would be redundancies, yes," he added.
Adrian Kane, the secretary of the group of unions representing Irish Water staff, said there was deep concern among staff following speculation about their futures.
But Mr Ó Broin denied that Sinn Féin was preparing to "go to war" with Irish Water workers, whose union representatives insist that they would strongly resist redundancies.
"Certainly, Sinn Féin wouldn't be looking to go to war with anybody," said Mr Ó Broin.
"But we also have to be very honest. While again, we can't prejudge what the outcome of any possible commission would be, clearly, if you are restructuring water services, there is a highly likelihood of redundancies and we would deal with that if it happened."
Speaking on the same RTÉ programme, Mr Ogle - who is a co-ordinator of Right2Water - rejected the prediction of redundancies outright.
He said: "We cannot have a situation where we are investing an extra €6-7bn in water services and sanitation and that equals less workers.
"Of course, as I just said, Irish Water needs to be restructured, where we have people working on frontline services, delivering and making sure we get water and sanitation services - we need more of them," he said.
Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit TD Mr Murphy told the Irish Independent that he did not accept the need for compulsory redundancies at the public utility, which also employs more than 3,500 workers indirectly.
"The only people we would be looking at is the people at the top, who are earning huge salaries," the Dublin South-West TD added.