50,000 march against budget cuts

 

Approximately 50,000 people marched in Dublin this afternoon in a protest organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) against the Government’s austerity plan.

The protest started on Wood Quay at noon, before crossing over to the north quays to Ormond Quay, continuing on to Bachelors Walk and then onto O’Connell Street, arriving at the GPO at 1pm.

Addressing the crowd on a podium at the GPO, Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole said the Government was doing a deal with people who had not been elected.

He said the country was paying billions to bail out the banks and the Government had declared war on the poor. He said Irish people were not subjects, but citizens, and wanted their republic back.

Ictu president Jack O'Connor told protestors the country had been brought "to its knees" by the Government and bankers.

"Several generations of Irish men and women" will have to foot the bill, Mr O'Connor said.

Congress general secretary David Begg said that Dick Turpin at least wore a mask when he robbed people. He also told the crowd that 100,000 people had joined the march, although gardaí said their estimate was 50,000.

“Does anybody in this country or in Dáil Éireann think that we can as a people afford to pay 6.7 per cent on money that we did not ask for in the first place and that is being forced upon us to bail out the banking system in Europe which is in hock to this country for €509 billion?”

Along with speeches from union leaders, some of whom were booed, musicians Christy Moore and Frances Black also performed.

Another speaker gave out what they claimed was Minister for the Environment John Gormley's home telephone number and instructed the crowd to "phone him as often as possible".

The protest ended shortly after 2pm and the majority of the crowd dispersed. A second, smaller rally then started and a crowd of several thousand people was addressed by Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins.

Another group of about 300 protestors walked to the Dáil to continue their protest. A number of bottles and bangers were thrown at a line of gardaí blocking access to Leinster House and posters with a picture of Taoiseach Brian Cowen were set on fire.

One person was arrested during minor scuffles. There were no reports of injuries.

Business group Chambers Ireland said the union protest was “out of touch with reality”.