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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: May 27, 2011 @ 10:01 am

    Why are the Irish not more like Spain’s Indignados?

    Laura Slattery

    The “Spanish revolution” saw thousands of young Spaniards embark on a week-long series of anti-establishment demonstrations, with tactics including Twitter calls-to-action and the setting up of a “tent city” in Madrid’s central square, Puerta del Sol. Spanish protesters, dubbed “los indignados” (the indignant), want jobs (Spain’s youth unemployment rate is around 45 per cent), better living standards, fairer political processes and changes to their government’s austerity programme.

    This sounds familiar.

    And yet despite the parallels in the economic plights of both countries (overheated property market, youth-concentrated unemployment), sustained and co-ordinated protests, youth-led or otherwise, have yet to take place on the same kind of scale in Ireland. This is much to the dismay of Irish activists, who wish their compatriots were more visibly angry about the extent to which external, unelected bodies have assumed the power to dictate social and economic policy here (via the usual method of debt enslavement).

    Independent TD Richard Boyd-Barrett, doing the loudspeaker thing at a Spanish solidarity protest in Dublin last Saturday, declared that Irish activists “want to see the Spanish revolution imported into this country”. But why do we have to import it? Why can’t the Irish be more like the Spanish? Without degrees in psychology, sociology, economics and European history - and a field study in both countries – that is not a question I am going to attempt to answer in a mere blog post. Oh no. But here are some possibilities.

    1. The answer lies in the numbers: Some 27 per cent of workers aged 20-24 in Ireland are unemployed (as of the end of last year), while almost half of 18-25-year-olds in Spain can’t find work. Could it be that somewhere in between lies the tipping point between tolerable and intolerable?

    2. The Irish media are innately conservative, promoting political consensus and a heads-down attitude to life… On the other hand, there’s nothing a home news editor enjoys more than a mass protest, what with its reliable capacity for producing a bumper crop of page-filling pictures of crowds bearing strong, witty placards – some of which manage not to be Father Ted references.

    3. Irish people are lazy.

    4. Irish people are not lazy; they just don’t feel very much like marching for an hour, then waiting at the bus stop for the same length of time.

    5. Irish people are not lazy, just waiting for the summer. Boyd-Barrett has named July 16th as the date on which “the spirit of Spain” will be brought to Ireland by way of demonstration, which gives Ireland’s Indignados plenty of time to figure out how to erect their tents.

    6. Irish people are righteously indignant, but it’s much easier to RT an online petition than it is to mobilize.

    7. Irish people are more cynical than the Spanish about the effectiveness of political protest when it comes to changing law and government policy, and are less likely to value benefits such as the fuzzy feeling of solidarity, post-chanting catharsis and the opportunity to flirt self-deprecatingly with fellow protestors.

    8. The Spanish protesters were partly objecting to Spanish government austerity measures and its all-round handling of the economy, while Irish people are resigned to the idea that the Irish government has already ceded control of both of those things to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

    9. The Spanish political establishment isn’t as good at divide-and-conquer as its Irish counterpart.

    10. There aren’t any encampment-friendly open spaces in Dublin city centre that are equivalent to the Puerta del Sol… on the plus side, for “boutique” demonstrations, the Spire is a foolproof meeting point.

    11. Media coverage of protests focuses disproportionately on incidences of violence by protesters, putting people off attending.

    12. Media coverage of protests focuses disproportionately on incidences of violence by Gardaí, putting people off attending.

    13. Media coverage of demonstrations makes protests look boring and protesters look cold.

    14. Media coverage of demonstrations is all about logistics such as road closures that might possibly crimp the extremely important day of people who are not actually marching and have no intention of ever marching, while giving comparatively little attention to the “ishoos”.

    15. Television news coverage of protests patronises protestors by constantly congratulating them for being “peaceful”: You know, it’s almost as if they’re disappointed when there isn’t a massive rumble followed by an all-day kettling.

    16. Irish people don’t know any good protest songs. “This is what democracy sounds like”, indeed.

    17. Young Irish people would prefer to rant about the state of the nation from the comfortable distance of Scruffy Murphy’s pub. Which, last time I checked, was in Sydney.

    18. There have been plenty of decent-sized protests in Ireland, including the snowy outpouring of November 27th, 2010. Where have you been?

    19. A combination of the above.

    20. All of the above.

    21. None of the above.

    22. Other _________________

    • Astral Weeks says:

      The grotesquely overpaid public sector are insulated. Why would anybody with a public sector job protest when our government are bowering billions in order to keep them in the style to which they have become accustomed?

    • james says:

      There is a mass protest planned for #july16 when the IMF arrive for their next quarterlky review. Watch out for the #irishrevolution

    • Quint says:

      Protests, youth-led or otherwise, don’t really happen here because we are resigned to the fact that PROTESTS WON’T CHANGE ANYTHING. We elect a government, they bring in austerity measures, cutbacks and tax increases and if you don’t like it tough: you elected them.

    • Ciaran says:

      It seems Richard Boyd Barrett has yet to realise that the 10794 votes he received in Dun Laoghaire were not for revolution but for change and when did a revolution ever change anything? ;-)

    • DepthChargeEthel says:

      Protesting on a Saturday does not really inconvenience the powers that be, there’s a lack of spontaneity attached to protesting (probably because of the law? I’m not sure) Organising a protest with express permission & cooperation of the garda (to some extent) is not really in the spirit of indignation. There’s a reticence to truly down tools & take to the streets here because everyone looks after their own interests. Very few people in Ireland (in all facets and all stages of life) want to be known as the boat rockers, so ‘me féinism’ reigns & there sadly remain no real “los indignados”

    • Michael Gill says:

      I read that the minimum wage in Spain is Euro 650./month . Unemployment (dole) for a single person is Euro426.00/mo. , reducing to 350.00/mo after 18 months . Perhaps they’ve got more to complain about ?.

    • The Irish people’s painful lack of action prompted me to move temporarily to Spain just over a month ago… and I can’t bear the thoughts of going back now.

      Read my blog for more thoughts, if you like. http://worldsavingrants.com/2011/03/17/going-postal/

    • Di says:

      Unemployment is not only about percentages. In Ireland it is easy to get unemployment benefit and the money is good. In Spain and in Greece it’s very difficult to become elligible for unemployment benefit and you get very little money. So maybe this is one of the reasons why young people in these countries are so frustrated.

    • Ray says:

      Divide-and-conquer, by government and some media did the trick. See comment 1, huge generalisation and nasty. Some abuse for bankers and developers, but what about the outrageous cost of goods and services that drove demands for wage hikes, why no abuse for doctors, dentists, and restaurant, supermarket, hotel, and pub owners?

    • Gus says:

      @Michael Gill: The pay for unemployed people here in Spain is a percentage of the last wage the person got while working, it’s not a fixed amount like 426€/month. That 426€ thing is some sort of help the Spanish Government give to unemployed people who couldn’t get their pay, but it’s temporary (I guess).

    • The Irish don’t protest because the rest of the Irish will mock them for wearing tracksuits

    • Damien says:

      20 to 24 year old are too busy playing X Box online with their unemployed friends Y el tiempo es mejor en barcelona que Dublin

    • vt says:

      Have you folks watch international TV today? Watch, this happened this morning in Barcelona: http://vimeo.com/24312609

    • Jay says:

      #6 and #8 you are fully wrong, the dole and social protection is wider and higher than in Ireland, but also progressive.
      The employment rate in Ireland is lower than Spain: 46% of the labour force, you just need to get into the CSO stats, or just think about 1.6 m employed against 3.3. m labour force. Maybe the difference is how the countries count it in or the eligibility requirements.
      Nonetheless, the issue here is not the unemployment but the quality of our democracy, who rates the raters? who chooses the financial powers? who is eligible to be part of the market? It’s time to wake up in everywhere and build a true democracy now!
      It’s up to you fellas…

    • Des Canine says:

      I think the rapturous inhabitants of Corkshire salivating over the British Queen and the IT/RTE cheerleaders for forelock-tugging is about as far as you need to look in search of the source of the cretinous attitude of the Southern Irish middle class and their sprogs.

    • Silvia says:

      I’m a Spanish student and I’m taking part in demonstrations in some Spanish cities such as Zaragoza or Soria, although I’m having my university exams. We are hundreds, at the weekend thousands, and everybody is full of good intentions and creativity.
      Some months ago I couldn’t imagine that Spanish people, especially Spanish young people, would move a muscle. But suddenly we woke up and now we are fighting pacifically for a better society, better solutions, true politics, more participatory democracy…
      We were lazy, indifferent people… but we finally said “enough”. Our media often exaggerate, highlight a few violent facts instead of talking about how effective the organization is at the camps. But we have social networks and blogs and we are not fool.
      Spanish people did it, the Irish can do it too. Better late than never.
      Thank you for your support.

    • Dali says:

      I am Spanish and after reading this one and the previous article along with articles from other English speaking newspapers I must say that the information about the Spanish rev is very innacurate. It is true that unemployment rate is the higher in Europe, that many people have lost their jobs, their homes and their hopes of a future, but this revolution has been triggered by a law which was passed against the will of the population (ley Sinde). The main demand in this revolt is a changed in the electoral legislation. The way it is now makes it impossible to remove corrupt politicians from the lists of candidates. It makes it almost impossible for minorities to get represented at parliament. It’s corruption that people want out. And maybe we are in the street bc we now it is ours, people that protest are citizens who now who they are. It is the first time people can avoid the control of the information by the media.

    • Seamus says:

      The Public sector workers…very handy for politicians to put the all the attention on them. I am a public worker, I work hard and I will never be rich with my salary. Of course there is a bunch of senior management making a fortune and those are the ones to blame. A minority.

    • Paul says:

      Even the blog responses lack the sort of vitriole you might hope for. Look to Iceland, the people effectively took over government and now they are on the road to recovery. Irish politicians of all political persuasions have demonstrated a shocking cocktail of hubris and cowardice, getting bullied into selling their country to save a bunch of European banks, and who complians .. Morgan Kelly & Richard Boyd Barrett. For shame on you Ireland ….. as you fumble in a greasy till and add the halfpence to the pence and prayer to shivering prayer …….

    • Manus says:

      It’s as simple as this: molecular changes are building up and the reality of a generation that can’t fit will soon explode to the surface. We know not when or how, but we must be prepared for this explosion when it happens. The kettle is boiling… Enda and Gilmore, prepare to be scalded

    • jaygee says:

      As always the safety valve of the route to England
      is available , the Establishment has always relied
      on this to save their skins.

    • I am an Irishman married to a Spanish woman from Soria, and who studied many years ago at the University of Salamanca, i consider Spain my adopted country and i have a great affection for the people and the country which is a fascinating place. The Spanish and Irish character are similar. Both are mercurial, and a quick-tempered, with the Irish being a little more melancholic and the Spanish passionate: everything is taken with intensity.
      Most of the reasons you give for the Spanish protests are correct. However, one should not underestimate the significance of 5 million unemployed and one million households where both spouses are out of work. A mass protest has been rather late in coming !. The situation in Ireland as far as unemployment is concerned is not so drastic, and Irish youth have the escape-valve of Australia, Canada and other English-speaking countries where they can find a job. Spanish youth cannot go so easily to Latin AMerica or other European countries, so their job possibilites are more limited. Inasmuch as the Socialist government is partly responsible for this situation due to their endorsement of antiquated labour laws and an economy with little flexibility and entrenched interests, the people are right in protesting vehemently.
      The Irish have already exercised their protest by mercilessly kicking out a government which was over 60 years in power ( and by the way, which was not so bad ). Further protest would seem pointless at this stage.
      I would describe the Spanish protests as tame and well-behaved. Perhaps because the excesses of a civil war which led to priests being murdered, nuns raped and Republicans executed en masse weighs heavily on collective memory to exercise restraint.
      It is my sincere desire that these protests will lead to serious reform of the Spanish economy and unleash the huge creative potential of the people. Just look at Spain`s dominion of the world of sport: football, tennis, cycling, etc. ! Imagine what they could achieve if this energy were applied to the economic and political spheres !

    • kevin says:

      Sorry Laura missed the OBVIOUS one:

      Young Irish people leave the country to get work when there is no prospect in Ireland

    • a.commenter says:

      Unless it was an optical illusion I saw demonstrators on the streets of Dublin in the recent cringefest for the baked bean and Biffo O’Bama…
      I also saw the response of the Gardai and the venerable organ to them…seems if you are a middle class Spaniard and protest you are cool but if you are a working class Dubliner then you are a ‘scumbag’ or some of the other disgusting adjectives used by hypocrites IT gobshites…

    • Mark says:

      I think there are some good points and some bad ones. I think when you look at the Irish persona there are two types of Irish, those that are living abroad and those that are living in Ireland. The Irish abroad are considered to be as hard working and efficient which has created respect for Irish people. The Irish in Ireland are considered to be rich, lazy, ignorant, and party goers and tend to go abroad only for a holiday in search of a good time regardless of the consequences. This impinges on the Irish working and living abroad. The problem seems to be the Irish that stay in Ireland and only go abroad in search for a good time seem to forget that although they are going abroad, they still represent Ireland. When someone from one of these holiday destinations sees them, they categorize Irish as being how they behave which is usually drunk, half naked, and swearing verbal abuse. If a major executive in a company who oversees the location of jobs sees this behaviour by the Celtic revellers, they may decide that Ireland is too risky a country to invest in. Thankfully this is not always the case and this is due in part to the hard working Irish abroad.

      The Celtic tiger generation grew up being use to getting what they wanted. Most have experienced growing up with having two cars in their driveway and going on at least one holiday a year. They have forgotten their culture and if you were to ask them something cultural about Ireland, they will usually respond going out for a pint which creates the ubiquitous stereotype of Irish being alcoholics, which is something no employer wants to employ. They have become accustomed to receiving maximum rewards with only the minimum effort. This is so different to the pre Celtic tiger generation that did have to work hard in order to make a living. This is compounded when you take into consideration how government officials or even state bodies in Ireland never accept responsibility for any wrong doing and this has created the culture that is now evident in Ireland. This may be the difference in the two types of Irish existing today. However, there may be a further problem in the future for Ireland and that is the Celtic tiger generation are now finding it hard to get a job and are contemplating going abroad to work. The areas they are heading for are English speaking countries such as America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Britain. Not one has concentrated on working in a non English speaking European country because this will require too much effort for them because they will need to learn a second language. This may be a problem on two levels. One because we are part of the European Union and should be able to show the similarities that do exist between our culture and those in Europe and Two because any new technological development created or even research on that matter by Ireland will become increasingly difficult to sell because most Irish people can only speak English fluently and this means outsourcing of jobs to translators of other countries that can communicate on our behalf and whom will put the money they are paid from our economy into their economy whereas if Irish people could speak other European languages (in particular to the new EU accession countries), then that money is recycled in the Irish economy.

      On the issue of the Spanish revolution, many may not know there is a Spanish revolution, but it is more on the demand for independence of many regions away from Spain and not on a solidarity movement amongst Spanish on the Spanish economy, in particular, Catalonia which is the strongest region in Spain and pays the highest taxes and which is responsible for keeping the Spanish economy afloat for such a long period. This little country which has a population of over seven million has attracted major US investors and has a higher wealth than Ireland. They wish to become independent where they cite the other Spanish regions laziness and that they are similar to the Celtic generation in Ireland who wish to receive benefit and not incur costs. Here is a link to a video in English that will explain the situation fully: http://vimeo.com/24052492

    • Without dignity says:

      Have you concidered Irish weather + tenth point.

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