independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Nationwide protests call for change

100,000+ take to the streets despite Government's exultation over deal

CARNIVAL FEEL: The demonstrators reach Merrion Square

The promissory note deal has failed to quell public anger and dismay over bank debt, with tens of thousands of people taking part in protests yesterday as fears emerged that the liquidation of IBRC will wipe out any potential dividend for ordinary workers.

Trade unionists claimed 110,000 took part in demonstrations across the country, though gardai said the number was lower.

Organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, protests took place in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Sligo as it was revealed in Department of Finance figures that €1bn of the benefits from the promissory note deal will be sucked up by pay-outs to the last of the Anglo bondholders (originally due to be paid off in two years time) and by other transaction costs.

More than 60,000 took part in the Dublin protest, while at least 15,000 turned out in Cork, 13,000 in Waterford, 10,000 in Limerick, 7,000 in Sligo and 5,000 in Galway.

Congress general secretary David Begg told a rally in Dublin's Merrion Square that the bank debt problem had not been solved by last week's deal. He vowed their bank debt campaign would continue until the link between private bank debt and national debt was clearly broken.

"If you read some papers yesterday you would think we had achieved economic salvation and our problems were over. Nothing could be further from the truth. And we have over 100,000 thousand people on the streets of Ireland today who feel the same way.

"New deal, same problem: 1.8 million people cannot possibly pay of a bank debt burden of €64bn, especially a debt they played no part in running up. There is nothing fair about this deal.

"We saved the European banking system in 2008, an act of extraordinary solidarity with Europe – now we want some solidarity in return," Mr Begg said.

He pointed out that Ireland had already paid some €41bn for the banking crisis, more than Germany, the UK, Spain or Portugal.

"So far, every Irish person has paid €9,000, while the average across the EU is €192. That is neither fair nor just," he said.

Meanwhile, the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT) has claimed that the large turnout of anti-property tax protesters at yesterday's anti-debt marches had shown that "the property tax will become a major headache for the Government, and can be beaten".

Speaking after the protests, CAHWT spokesperson John Lyons said: "After a week in which the burden of debt on Irish taxpayers was hugely increased as a result of the government's so-called deal with the ECB, campaigners against the property tax were out in their thousands to demonstrate opposition to government policy of loading the gambling debts of international finance on the shoulders of ordinary workers."

Mandate Trade Union said that many of its members are extremely angry about the promissory note deal arranged by the Government.

"Mandate has taken the position that any deal with the ECB should include a significant write down in debt, particularly considering this was never the debt of the Irish people in the first place," said John Douglas, Mandate general secretary.

"The deal this week does not achieve a reduction in the principal debt that will be paid to bondholders. This time last week, the Irish people owed €28bn and they still owe it this week so as far as we're concerned. The fact is, it will just be paid over a longer period of time and will result in our children and grandchildren being saddled with a debt that was never ours in the first place," he said.

From bricklayers to teachers, they came in their thousands from all over the Mid-West region to march in Limerick City, to highlight their opposition to the current austerity measures.

Led by a crescendo of noise from the bagpipes and drums of the City of Limerick Pipe Band, the 8,000-strong protest march brought the city centre to a standstill.

Trade unions and individuals from Limerick were joined by contingents from Clare, Tipperary and Kerry, carrying with them anti-austerity placards and banners.

The protesters shouted chants, such as, "the banks got bailed out, we got sold out" and "tax the greedy, not the needy" as the march heaved its way from Perry Square around the city.

Michael Carmody, a retired teacher in his 60s from Ennis, Co Clare, also marched. He said bankers caused the economic meltdown, for which everyone else was paying for.

"I'm a retired teacher and there are people who are way worse off than I am, but nobody here is as well off as the people who caused the problem."

"No one [is] in jail yet for it. Public servants and civil servants didn't cause this. It was caused by the bankers – none of them are being punished. Everybody here in this march is being punished one way or the other."

In Cork, more than two thousand people took to the streets to protest against austerity measures and called on the Government to secure a proper deal to reduce the actual burden of bank debt on people's shoulders.

SIPTU, Mandate, The Communications Workers' Union and the Public Service Executive Union were among a large number of trade unions represented, while the teachers and nurses were also out in force, with members of the TUI, the ASTI and the INMO among those taking part.

Anna Guerin from Killarney, Co Kerry, said she was here with a group all earning between €400 and €500 a week, to tell the Government that they can't take more cuts.

"In January with the PRSI going up and the child benefit going down that's a loss of about €50 a month for a lot of us. They still want to take more and we're just not able to give any more."

Irish Independent

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