Thousands march against austerity and IMF bailout

Around 100,000 people took to the streets of the capital today as part of a national demonstration against the government's austerity measures. By Alison Spillane (Photographs by Lucy White; Video by Evie Franks)

The demonstration, organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), departed from the civic offices at Wood Quay shortly after 12 noon and proceeded to O'Connell Street where a protest rally was held outside the GPO.

Addressing the crowd, master of ceremonies Fintan O'Toole highlighted the rhetoric surrounding the economic crisis, evident in phrases such as "we are where we are" – the implication being that we must accept our lot.

O'Toole turned this notion on its head saying, "We are here to say that we are who we are – citizens of a proud and free Republican democracy". He said the current situation was a case of mind over matter; "They [the government] don't mind, and we don't matter".

Speaking about the IMF/EU bailout, he highlighted the fact that the government is doing a deal with people who have not been elected. He said the purpose of the bailout was to allow the government to continue to bail out the bankers whilst simultaneously declaring war on the poor.

In particular, Mr O'Toole spoke about the cut in the minimum wage announced as part of the government's four-year plan earlier this week, describing the measure as "opportunistic". He also drew attention to cuts affecting the elderly and children.

He said a democracy where the power returned to the people was achievable, adding "We are not subjects, we are citizens and we want our republic back".

The rally was heavily imbued with historical references; both the 1916 Proclamation and the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil (21 January 1919) were read aloud. O'Toole also referenced Jim Larkin and the 1913 Dublin Workers' Lockout.

Other speakers at the event included Ictu President Jack O'Connor, Ictu General Secretary David Begg, and Siobhán O'Donoghue of the Community Platform.

O'Donoghue described the past few weeks as "one of the most unjust and destructive periods in the history of the Irish State". Targeting John Gormley, she said the Green Party will go down in history as the "mudguard of Fianna Fáil".

Marie Doyle spoke on behalf of pensioners. She said elderly people had made a huge contribution to the State during their working lives and were now being treated like parasites. "We resent being told that we are a burden for the State".

Apprentice plumber Keith O'Driscoll, unable to finish his training, drew attention to the fact that there are nearly 8,000 unemployed apprentices in the country. He said many of these may be forced to emigrate.

Following the main event, a smaller rally of the newly-formed United Left Alliance took place at the end of O'Connell Street. It attracted a crowd of several thousand people as they departed the main demonstration. People Before Profit's Richard Boyd-Barrett said that today's march was "just the beginning" and called on individuals to return to their union branches and community groups and organise – he said a general strike was imperative in order to oust the current government.

UCD lecturer Dr Kieran Allen and MEP Joe Higgins also spoke at the event. Earlier this week, Higgins walked out of a meeting with the European Commissioner for Economic & Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn when he was told the details of the meeting were to remain confidential.

Photo gallery of the protest, images courtesy of Lucy White.

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Video footage of the protest, courtesy of Evie Franks,