Monday 18 December 2017

If you hold up traffic, thou doth protest far too much

Liam Fay

Politically and physically, this week's anti-austerity protesters were all over the place. The stated rationale for Wednesday's demonstrations in Dublin city centre – a rash of disruptive frolics combining fist-brained belligerence with air-headed bluster – was the start of a new Dáil session. Before long, however, groups and individuals were peeling away from the original rallying-point at the gates of Leinster House. Unable to agree on a single fixed position, the breakaway factions dispersed in multiple directions, each one heading nowhere fast.

Eventually, some of these shrewd social analysts identified a common enemy that had to be stopped: rush- hour traffic. Around 300 protesters blocked off the capital's main thoroughfare at O'Connell Bridge, causing tailbacks up and down the quays and knock-on gridlock deep into the city. Several double-decker buses were marooned on the bridge, their passengers forced to disembark. It was late evening before order was restored.

For some time, it's been fashionable to lament the Irish people's lack of enthusiasm for political protest. By not taking to the streets in substantial numbers, the argument goes, we are consenting to economic enslavement by capricious overseas forces. Some claim that the Irish personality is innately submissive, others insist that our fighting spirit has been broken by despair and debt. Either way, we are portrayed as co-conspirators in our own doom.

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