'End is nigh' for protests as gardai outnumber crowd at Dail
IT was a lonely protest that took up position outside Leinster House to await the fallout from the Budget.
As Michael Noonan rose to his feet to deliver the details, a tiny crowd outside who were heavily outnumbered by gardai, began to assemble in the hope that others would come.
But they never did. Peaking at around 100 people at around 3pm, the gathering slowly petered out in bitter disappointment throughout the afternoon. By 5pm, there were more people gathered around a neon-jacketed street dancer at the top of nearby Grafton Street than there were protesters being watched over by neon-jacketed gardai.
It seemed to say a lot for our national need for emotional comfort and diversion at a time of continued stress.
"Jesus, I've seen bigger parties," quipped one young protester in dismay at the ghostly vista of Molesworth Street.
"I'm not surprised – I was expecting this," declared independent campaigner Liam Mac An Bhaird from east Galway, who took part in the Occupy Dame Street protest.
"Protests are now seen as a bad thing to do and that if you are a dissenter, you are viewed as being a Republican or dangerous."
"The Irish people feel disenfranchised and disempowered – they feel that the Government will do what it wants regardless of what anybody says and that there's nothing anyone can do about it." Meanwhile, he also pointed to the splits and divisions in Left-wing politics as being to blame for a lack of strength in protests, when set against a Right which is "solid and speaks with a single voice".
"Protests are what got us our independence – but people have never been so disenfranchised or disillusioned as they are now in the 21st century," he said. Dublin woman Marie Bennett said she could hardly believe the low numbers who had turned up against the number of gardai on duty.
"I came after work to protest against austerity," she explained.
"They're taking the money from the wrong people and it's very wrong."
She revealed how she had passed Minister Brian Hayes on the street and had deliberately turned her back on him by way of protest.
"But they're in their own bubble," she concluded. "Austerity means nothing to them."