Thousands of people took to the streets across the country yesterday to demand immediate action to combat the spiralling cost of living crisis.
Demonstrations were held in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Sligo, with opposition politicians and campaigners joining the crowds.
In Dublin, protesters chanted “Rents are rising — so are we”; “Vultures: out, out, out!”; and “Leo in your ivory tower — this is what you call people power” as they marched from Parnell Square to Leinster House.
Those in attendance included Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald and her party’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin, his partner Senator Lynn Boylan, as well as People before Profit TDs Richard Boyd Barrett and Paul Murphy.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent after the event, Ms McDonald warned of a “brutal winter” ahead for ordinary people.
On the stage she described the Government as “absolutely out of touch” with no “real understanding” of the cost of living crisis. She promised the crowd that if the Government was not prepared to give them “breathing space” — they should “make way for a government who will”.
Mr Boyd Barrett said he expected the numbers of protesters attending such events to grow in the coming months.
“We know from previous campaigns, like the water charges, that they build up over time, and we are determined that this movement will be the same,” he said.
Campaigning is being organised at a grassroots level.
The next protest is due to take place at Fianna Fáil’s ard fheis in October.
Mr Boyd Barrett asked people to help build a “mass movement” to force the Government to “protect the rights to housing and protect people’s ability to live”.
Outside the Dáil, a young mother, Gemma from Cabra, Dublin, described having to alternate which bill she could afford to pay each month.
“I’ve also started to cut back on my food shop,” she said.
“The price of everything has gone up — pasta and toilet roll — the kind of things we can’t do without.”
Mary, a grandmother, said she had started to use a food bank in recent weeks. “It’s embarrassing but if I don’t go I’ll go hungry,” she said. “I am there every Tuesday and Thursday and it’s packed to the rafters.”
Homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry also addressed the crowd, saying: “I can’t understand why any young person would stay in this country.
"They are never going to be able to afford a house. They are going to be paying excessive amounts of their wages on rent and the cost of living here is the highest in the EU. I’m in despair.”
UCD first-class honours graduate Kelsey May Daly (22) cried as she told the crowd how she found herself homeless last year.
She is currently working as a waitress and is an aspiring social worker.
Elizabeth Denieffe, from Kildare town, said she had become homeless when her landlord evicted both her and her husband.
“My husband works. I am a carer. And we can’t find anywhere to rent in our own town," she said. “We have had to move into a mobile home in my mother’s back garden.”