People come before banks before the G8

Q: What do the G8 protesters hope to achieve?

Sat, Jun 15, 2013, 11:06

This weekend sees some major protests taking place in Belfast ahead of the G8 summit in Co Fermanagh. Two of the centrepiece events are a trade union-organised Fairer World Festival and a Socialist Workers Party “counter-summit”.

In addition, smaller groups will hold demonstrations north and south of the Border, while further protests will be held in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, when the summit begins on Monday.

“There’s going to be lots of different groups there,” said Brian O’Boyle, from People Before Profit. “So you might have every group from charities to trade unions to radical left organisations to the environmentalists. They’ll all have their own specific focus.”

It’s difficult to pin-point a single objective among the broad coalition of groups, each of which have different agendas. But in general, O’Boyle said, G8 protesters want “more radical forms of democracy, and they would like to put people’s needs more firmly on the agenda of the G8 rather than the needs of banks and corporations”. Since the late 1990s large protests have accompanied high-profile international conferences with almost routine predictability.

This year an enormous security detail is in place ahead of the arrival of Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, David Cameron and the rest of the global leaders at the Lough Erne resort. After the death of anti-globalisation protester Carlo Giuliani during clashes at the Genoa G8 meeting in Italy in 2001, organisers have tended to hold the summit in more isolated areas such as Gleneagles in Scotland or Camp David in the US.

Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, who will attend the demonstrations in Belfast this weekend, said it’s important that “there’s a strong show of opposition to the policies that these people are implementing, wherever they meet”.

The nature of the protests has changed since Seattle in 1999, when thousands of demonstrators travelled from around the world to attend the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference demonstrations.

“That element of very major international protest, of people travelling from afar to protest at these sorts of events, has decreased,” Murphy says, adding that in recent years the focus has tended to shift more towards the domestic economic and environmental concerns of campaign groups within the host country. “I don’t think you’ll have loads and loads of protesters from all across Europe or something. I’d say the vast majority of participants will be from the island of Ireland and predominantly from the North.”