European week of protest begins

At a conference in Buswells Hotel today, Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins launched the European week of protest against government strategies that disadvantage the poor. By Shane Creevy.

A strong Trade Union representation was evident at the conference. Speakers included Terry Kelleher of the Civil and Public Services Union, Paul Shiels of SIPTU, Eugene McDonagh of the National Bus and Rail Workers Union and Eddie Conlon of the Teacher’s Union of Ireland. The week of protest is also taking place across other European countries.

Joe Higgins argued against cuts in living standards. “Workers, pensioners, student youth and those socially excluded must not pay for the crisis”, he said.


“We demand that the dictatorship of the financial markets, who can dictate horrific policies of cutbacks to governments, is ended. And finally we believe that the bank bailout scandal should be halted immediately. Nationalise the banks and financial institutions in the interests of working people and investment for our society”.

Paul Shiels said that there should be a mass input from the trade union movement for the week of protest and beyond.

This was echoed by Eugene McDonagh, who said that it is “important for trade unionists as a whole [...] to speak out against the bailout of the banks”.

Terry Kelleher argued against the recent acceptance by the ICTU of the Croke Park Agreement. “Weakness invites aggression,” said Kelleher. “This will be a disaster for the economy in Ireland and for its people. This ivory tower, completely out of touch approach, ignores the real processes going on on the ground”.

Kelleher said the ICTU had given the impression that easy cuts could be made by the government to the ordinary worker.

Politico put it to Eddie Conlon that NAMA was now in place and many people felt there was nothing they could do to stop it.

“NAMA is not going to work,” Conlon said. “This is a fundamental issue here. The absolute drain on state resources that’s involved in this is unprecedented. It’s a mistake for people to think because [NAMA] is in place now, that’s the end of the story”.

This week sees protests in Europe as socialists across the continent come together in mutual anger at the issues highlighted at today's conference.

A protest is planned for Wednesday 23 June at The Mansion House on Dawson Street, where the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) is hosting a dinner with Taoiseach Brian Cowen. The week culminates on Saturday with a protest outside the Central Bank.