Hundreds march against Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition ‘stitch-up’
Talks between right-of-centre parties to form next government characterised as ‘shameful’
Paddy Morrissey, from Charleville, a member of the North Cork and Surrounding Areas Hospital Action Group taking part in a protest entitled Stop the Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil Stitch-Up in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.
Organised by People Before Profit, the demonstration started outside the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square before moving down to the Spire on O’Connell street with dozens of people carrying posters with the words “Kick out FF &FG” accompanied by chants of “Leo, Leo, Leo, out! Out! Out!”
Solidarity People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, who led the speeches before the protest began, described negotiations between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to form the next government as “shameful”.
“This election was all about delivering change on the key issues of housing, health, childcare, cost of living, farmers, students,” said Ms Smith. “We think that change will not be represented by these two conservative forces who have allowed this country to become a tax haven for the wealthy and who don’t deliver the basic public services that are needed. Real change is driven from below. If we have a stitch-up they will fail again.”
Asked to comment on Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald’s decision not to take part in Saturday’s protest, Ms Smith replied there were many Sinn Féin voters present in Saturday’s crowd. “My understanding is that Sinn Féin’s position thought it was too soon. They’re not against mobilisation, they just think it’s too soon.”
Speaking to the crowd, Ms Smith urged participants to take care not to cough or sneeze on fellow protesters and to avoid shaking hands. She said she had received numerous calls and messages from people eager to take part in Saturday’s protest but worried about mixing in a big crowd.
“Don’t be afraid, just be careful and take the precautions that have been well covered by the HSE,” she said “If you believe that you may have been in touch with somebody who’s ill now, or you’ve come from part of the world that’s been infected, it might be wise to march towards the back rather than the middle of the crowd.”
Paul Murphy of the Rise political party said “establishment parties” were attempting to stymie the change that was voted for on February 8th. He also encouraged Sinn Féin to participate in future protests and called for “a left government or at least an alternative government that excludes both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael”.
Students suffering countrywide
Oisín McNeill from Extinction Rebellion told the crowd that the last government had failed to implement a “just transition” from a carbon-based economy which protects the welfare of farmers. Mr McNeill also warned that a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition would result in fracked gas from the United States being imported into Ireland through the Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas terminal and pipeline.
Trinity College student union president Laura Betson warned of the lack of financial support for students through the Susi (Student Universal Support Ireland) grant and criticised universities for increasing accommodation costs.
“Across the country we’ve seen rent increases of 4 per cent because the rent pressure zones allow you to increase up to 4 per cent. So instead of seeing it as a cap, colleges are seeing this as a target,” said Ms Betson.
Students countrywide are suffering “emotionally and financially”, she added. “We’re failing our students, so many have to commute four or five hours. They’re not getting the holistic experience that education is meant to be.”