Saturday 16 February 2019

Trade unions call for national strike and civil disobedience

Protesters gathered at the GPO in Dublin's O'Connell St on Saturday
Protesters gathered at the GPO in Dublin's O'Connell St on Saturday

Michael McHale

TRADE unions last night called for more protests and national strike action after more than 50,000 people marched through the streets of Dublin to voice their anger over the Government's austerity plans.

Workers' group UNITE said it was planning a "campaign of civil disobedience" ahead of Budget day on December 7, and would reveal its alternative financial strategy for the country this week.

"Saturday's march in Dublin showed that the people of Ireland are not willing to sit cowering in the corner as their future is sold for buttons by a political leadership intent on bailing out an out-of-control banking system," UNITE regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said.

"We're not going to change this Government now, but the only hope is to go beyond marches and protests. We've got to put strike action firmly in place."

The call comes after Socialist MEP Joe Higgins rallied protest members for a 24-hour national strike on Budget day. Mr Kelly said he would fully support such action, and called on other unions to do the same.

Outside Dublin's GPO, on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon, actress Ruth McCabe read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic to the mass of protesters who had made their way there from Wood Quay.

And the world was listening. Camera crews from news channels across the globe were there reporting.

Heading the marchers were the usual suspects -- far-left groups, union heads (the demonstration was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions) and a handful of radical republican groups.

But at the heart of the protest were ordinary people -- parents with their children, pensioners and young people struggling to find a job.

"Particularly for children, it's important they get a voice over how these big government decisions are being taken," Dubliner Aodh O'Connor said as his three sons Iarla (9), Ruairi (7) and Jack (6) looked over the River Liffey from the icy Ha'penny Bridge.

"My job is relatively secure. I'm a teacher. But I know a lot of people have not got secure jobs.

"Anyway, it's to do with the future of the country. We're talking about 20 years down the line, so I'm more concerned about that to be honest."


When Enda Roche, a self-employed businesswoman from Donaghmede in Dublin, was asked why she came out, she replied: "It had to be done.

"When I saw the weather this morning I thought to myself: 'Oh my God, How are we even going to get into town?' And yet we have people here from Sligo, Roscommon, Cork, everywhere -- it's just brilliant.

"I have my own company, but I think this is going to impoverish everybody. We all have to stand together. I realise that this is not just for people in unions, it's for everybody in the whole country."

Among the speakers at the demonstration were some of those most affected by the recession and the four-year plan announced last week -- pensioners, struggling workers and the unemployed.

In a tribute to Joe McNamara, who drove a cement lorry up to the gates of Leinster House last September, musician Christy Moore sang his famous tune 'An Ordinary Man'.

Perhaps the singer had forgotten the property developer was reportedly at odds with the infamous Anglo Irish Bank over loans of €3.5m.

But SIPTU head Jack O'Connor and ICTU leader David Begg were greeted by a chorus of boos and jeers as they called for the current Government to give up the ghost.

As they spoke of the politicians' failings, cries of "You've sold out" and "You're in bed with them" could be heard from angry protesters on the packed O'Connell Street.

While the heavily guarded main event otherwise went off without a hitch, by 2.30pm a group of 250 protesters moved down to Kildare Street and began throwing bottles, paintballs and eggs at the gardai standing at the front gates of Leinster House.

A poster of Brian Cowen was set alight, but there were no arrests and after around half an hour officers managed to break up the upheaval.

Irish Independent

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