Cost-of-living protest: Thousands turn out for Dublin march

Price of food, inflation and energy bills causing concern among members of public who turned out for protest

Ireland will face a new era of “forced emigration” unless the cost of living crisis is tackled by the Government, a rally in Dublin heard on Saturday.

Several thousand people turned out in Dublin city centre on Saturday afternoon for the march from Parnell Square to Merrion Square which was organised by the Cost of Living Coalition.

Addressing the crowd, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said the Government must ban any rent increases for at least three years.

“Parents now worry if they can put food on the table for children. This is the lot of low and middle-income workers trying to build a life.”


She said young people were now facing the prospect of building their future away from Ireland. “We are looking now at forced emigration again in the eye. We can’t afford to lose your talent and potential. You cannot be the next generation forced out.”

The protest was timed ahead of Budget 2023 in which the Government has promised measures to help individuals and households meet soaring bills.

The crowd, when it reached the end of the march route, filled roughly half of Merrion Square South. Use of the online crowd calculator MapChecking gave an estimate for the crowd of about 3,000 people, although the organisers put a much higher figure on the turnout.

Supporters of the demonstration included Opposition parties, disability organisations, the senior citizens parliament and Mica campaigners.

Homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry told the crowd Ireland was a “failing society that is failing our young people”.

“How would any young person who has completed a course at third level stay in Ireland? They will never own a home. They will pay 40-50 per cent of their income to a landlord who can evict them at any time,” he said.

The names of the three coalition party leaders were widely booed as part of the crowd chanted “out, out, out”. Protestors chanting “prices are rising and so are we” and “housing is a right not a privilege” brought traffic and the Luas to a standstill for a period.

Protesters included father-of-four Thomas Dillon (42), who said inflation was “getting out of hand”. The plumber, from Finglas, Dublin, who attended with his partner and their baby, said the price of the family’s food shopping had “almost doubled”.

Bridget Moore (70) and Eddie Greene (75), from Finglas, said they had not turned on their heating yet and instead had invested in hot water bottles and extra blankets.

UCD student Ben Ward (19), from Co Carlow, a Fine Gael member, carried a sign reading “Tax the profit, not the people”, reflecting his view that electricity companies and other firms should not benefit from increased profits when people were struggling to heat their homes, he said.

Union of Students of Ireland president Beth O’Reilly said the budget on Tuesday will be “make or break for all of us”.

The return to college for the first time in two years as a result of Covid-19 should be a time for joy. Instead students are staying in hostels, in cars and some are couch-surfing, she said. To loud cheers, she added that students need “affordable publicly-funded purpose-built accommodation. We can’t leave the citizens of Ireland at the mercy of landlord greed for another year.”

Fr McVerry said it was a government’s primary responsibility to make sure that the basic needs of its citizens were met. “Those basic needs are housing and health. They need to be able to heat their home and keep the lights on. They can’t use the excuse that they don’t have the money.

“How can anybody on €100,000 a year understand the pressure on low and middle-income households?”

Young people have been told that if they got a good education and got a qualification the government would look after them, Fr McVerry added.

“Now young people know that was a lie. They were scammed by that promise. This country will not look after them.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett said if the Government continues to “prioritise the interests of vulture funds, profit-driven energy companies and rich corporations”, young people’s patience will run out.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter