Anti-austerity march organisers call for protest outside Dáil on budget day
The organisers of Saturday’s anti-austerity march in Dublin have called for a similar gathering outside the Dáil on budget day, December 5th.
Marchers began to assemble around the Garden of Remembrance from midday on Saturday with a Garda spokeswoman saying the demonstration was 10,000-strong at its height. However, the protest-march organisers put the figure at about twice that number.
The demonstrators were led by a young woman wearing a white mask and riding a dark horse with a banner reading “No to austerity” draped around it. Road closures were in place in the city centre as the march made its way from Parnell Square, through O’Connell Street, on to d’Olier Street, before returning to O’Connell Street where speeches took place outside the GPO.
Michael O’Reilly, president of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, which co-organised the gathering, said it was just one step in a long campaign to reverse cutbacks.
“The evidence is clear – you cannot cut your way out of a recession,” he told protesters.
“On the contrary. With each cut in public spending, and with each euro taken out of the pockets of low and average earners in new or increased taxes, we are digging ourselves further into a hole.”
The march – organised by the Campaign Against Household and Water Charges, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and supported by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), Siptu and other trade unions – was joined by members of People Before Profit alliance, Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party and organisations including the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed.
The march was also supported by regional groups, among them groups from Monaghan, Donegal, Waterford, Kilkenny and Cork, which are variously opposed to the household tax, water charges and the septic tank charge.
Seán Walsh, part of a group from Portlaw in Co Waterford which is opposing the household charge, said he was “very encouraged” by the turnout.
“The effect is that it’s slowly tripping the country, slowly but surely and slowly affecting all business. In the rural areas the shopkeepers and publicans and so forth, they are slowly being put out of business and slowly being ground to a halt. It’s a simple message: austerity is not working and we must fight it and we must get the message across to the Government,” he said.
As Ictu president Eugene McGlone was introduced to the crowd he was greeted by a chorus of boos and shouts of “strike”.
Siptu president Jack O’Connor later condemned the behaviour of what he said was a small minority which represented “a sinister trend which has developed over the recent past and that bears all the hallmarks of fascism”.
He said he had witnessed a number of people carrying Sinn Féin banners accompanied by others carrying United Left Alliance posters participating in this behaviour and would be requesting that the general secretary of congress speak with the leadership of both parties.
“I want to make it very clear that I am not alleging that either of the organisations approved of, or condoned, fascist activity of this kind. But the fact of the matter is that is being carried on by people who are either associated with their organisations or elements who are very deliberately masquerading as such for reasons best known to themselves.
“The time has come to draw a line on the activities of this tiny minority who would deny the right to freedom of speech. And which, once again, has tried to besmirch a demonstration against the failed one-sided austerity approach which saw more than 20,000 turn out behind the banner of the Dublin Congress of Trade Unions,” he said.
In their own words: Why they marched
Karen Doyle from Cobh, Co Cork
“We are largely either being ridiculed or ignored, I feel. Hopefully today we will start to get our message across as we are all joined together, all the various groups are joined together. Austerity is not working. It’s not working for couples, it’s not working for families and the most vulnerable in our society are suffering and we all know this. It’s about time now everybody stood up.”
Frances McDaid from Ramelton in Donegal
“I have a family of seven and they built houses, now they’re going to ask them to pay taxes on those houses that they built. They never got anything in their lives, they worked all their lives to build houses . . . and they’re losing their jobs, they have no money. That’s why I’m here, for the young people of Ireland to try and make the Government realise we should be keeping them here instead of taxing them out of it. It’s a disgrace . . .”
Wesley Fitzgibbons from Dublin who attended the march with his son Liam (4)
“I’m a fitter by trade and I just can’t take any more cuts. We just feel that the Government just keeps hitting the middle working class all the time. Theres nothing else there to take. People are working a lot more hours trying to make ends meet and at the end of the month were just barely scraping by.”
Kay Wilson, a member of the National Association of Widows in Ireland, from Dublin
“We’re out at every march here and I don’t think Ministers are listening . . . If you’re depending on your pension alone which a lot of people are. It doesn’t go very far. If they were to give me the €100,000 that some of them are earning and I’ll give them my €200 and see how they’ll manage on that a week.”
Paul Murphy from Ballinrobe, Co Mayo
“I’m constantly active in various campaigns because basically what’s going on is a massive representation of systemic injustice. Our socioeconomic system is completely in favour of those who are most wealthy . . . for example we have a situation, which is actually unbelievable, where this year we are paying out almost €20 billion of public money unsolicited to unsecured bondholders . . . I see it as a theft.
“A thousand people are leaving this country a week. A thousand. This used to be the country of céad míle fáilte, it’s céad mile slán now.”