Protests continue with larger Garda presence
Anti-government protests continued yesterday with noticeable changes from last week; increased Garda presence and a significant jump in the numbers attending. By Shane Creevy.
After last week’s protest UNITE regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said: “We are disappointed that last Tuesday’s demonstration was portrayed purely in terms of the incident at the entrance to the Dáil. We want next Tuesday to be a bigger protest but also to be peaceful. The incident last week should not deflect from the fact that people gathered to make their voices heard. The anger is real but it is best directed through loud though peaceful protest”.
Once again the word ‘scuffles’ will be mentioned in most newspapers surrounding the protests last night.
And once again it is a pity that this will be the remnant of a night of entertainment and speeches and genuine political engagement.
There was folk music and even a theatrical appearance from Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, who playfully annoyed the crowd by throwing out cakes. Organisers said there were stewards in the crowd encouraging a peaceful protest.
(Audio: Excerpts from last night’s protest at the Dail; Kieran Allen’s speech; Ann Moore and Richard Boyd Barrett speak. More below.)
Brendan Ogle of the UNITE trade union said: “A nation that was created by tens of thousands of Irish men and women have been destroyed by an elite of politicians, developers, and bankers; a self-perpetuating elite with no mandate to carry through the policies that’s destroying this country." He compared this elite to the British landlords of the nineteenth century. He said the anger of the people could be harnessed productively, but rejected the alternative government of Fine Gael and Labour. He said it was necessary to jail Sean Fitzpatrick and Michael Fingleton and to cut government assistance to Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.
If the country is to make progress, he said, the left needed to make an alliance rather than continuing to be splintered among many small groups. He also called for centre-left parties to join this movement. Ogle said that RTE’s coverage of the protest last week was “a disgrace to a public sector broadcaster”.
Kieran Allen, one of the organisers and UCD sociologist, also blamed the Irish mainstream media. “A deliberate attempt has been made by the corporate media to prevent people protesting, to scare people, frighten people to stay at their television sets," said Allen. "And what you have proved tonight is that we do not listen to the lies of the Independent."
Ann Moore, recently evicted from her home, told her story, as can be heard on the audio clip above.
Richard Boyd Barrett argued that the "so-called clever people" had proven themselves to be nothing more than "greedy gamblers". “We’re here to say, we’re not stupid... your day is over," said Boyd-Barrett. Concluding his speech he addressed the crowd directly: “You have to understand you have more intelligence in your little toe than the fools that have been running the country the last thirty years."
All was moving along relatively peacefully.
However, the sudden explosion of two bangers seemed to change that atmosphere, and when the crowd was encouraged to march towards the GPO, splinter groups, mostly from Eirígí and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, moved in the exact opposite direction, headed directly towards the Gardaí outside Leinster House.
While standing face to face with Gardaí, an Eirígí spokesperson stated: "We are going to hold the line, we are not going to fall into their trap. Our numbers are not enough this time." Kieran Allen echoed the sentiments when he said: “They say there was something wrong with people scuffling at the Dáil. We have to say, they have seen nothing yet!”
These sentiments will undoubtedly concern Gardaí. More protests are planned throughout the summer, and the seeming determination of minority splinter groups to engage in violent acts will almost certainly undermine the political messages these marches hope to deliver.
(Audio: Brendan Ogle of the UNITE trade union full speech)