Jobstown protesters were angry after years of austerity
Protest saw a community making its point in the only way it could
I grew up in a community very similar to Jobstown. It was the 1980s. Some people had more than others but nobody had a lot. People got up early in the morning, either to go to school or work, or to mind other people’s children so that they could go to work. With the exception of one, politicians never visited.
Unfortunately for Joan Burton on that fateful day in November 2014, she chose to visit Jobstown during a time in which a community was finding its voice. The people in Jobstown get nothing handed to them. The people of Jobstown have to fight for everything they have and they carried out that protest in the best way they knew how.
Most of them had no other way of making their point; they don’t spend time on Kildare Street and here was an opportunity to express the rage built up over many years. Make no mistake about it, this wasn’t naked opportunism: these people were angry, at the years of austerity and the painful scars the community bore as a result. Everyone lost something, but the poor lost first and lost more.
As the Minister for Social Protection at the time, and leader of the Labour party, Joan Burton was the focus of a community’s ire. No amount of abuse is acceptable but ugly things are known to happen when people who are struggling become politicised, and lessons can hopefully be learned by all sides after this fiasco.
In essence though, Joan Burton’s confused political swipe against Paul Murphy and the general ‘murky’ left turned into an unmerciful smack.Right into the face of the politicising community of Jobstown. How’s that for politics?
She has attempted to de-cloak herself of years of privilege by reaching back into history to reveal her working class roots. Joan Burton tried to get us to buy into her own sense of entitlement, her own internalised bigotry against the working classes, where all the little urchins can equally aspire to one day turn out to be just like her, if they could just behave themselves.
By carelessly painting this community as a careless one, she echoed the previous ignorance of her ‘’expensive phones’’ comment, where she bizarrely attempted to expose a secret hoard of wealth by the protesting underclasses. It should be noted, that Deputy Burton, alongside all TDs, receives a €750 phone allowance towards a device of her choice, along with with her salary and expenses, and the free parking.
Instead of allowing tempers cool, this farcical case was allowed to snowball further, all the while demonising the community of Jobstown as a rabble crowd. The not guilty verdict was important on many levels, but the impact it will have on the politics of Jobstown will be inspiring. Had something like this happened in the community I grew up in we would all have been dancing in the streets by now - and Joe Higgins would definitely have been there.
While many of us might have believed it was a fait accompli, it was in working class communities like Jobstown that people found their voice and the monster that had become Irish Water had it’s wings clipped. And they meant what they said: not one more cut - not one more penny.
‘Underprivileged communities’ are well pathologised across many fields of literature, but try to explain the effects of ‘privilege’ and what it does for a person’s sense of entitlement, and you may be met with a confused or a sometimes angry response. It is not something that can be understood from the inside and is not something that can be easily shed, when a certain situation calls for it. Joan Burton may have come from working class roots but the only thing she was terrorised by that day was by her own prejudice against the working classes.
Surrounded by scores of Gardai, Joan Burton made a desperate cry for wolf, and in doing so exposed the ever increasing distance between herself, her party and the working class communities to which she so eagerly claims heritage - a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Áine Carroll has a Masters in Equality Studies (UCD) and is currently a social care worker.