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Austerity can't be wiped from our memories quite so easily

This country has endured almost seven years of morale-slapping, soul-destroying austerity.

Thousands of families have been driven to distraction and despair in their uphill battle to feed, clothe and educate their children and to keep a roof over their heads. Workers, both in the public and private sector have seen their take home pay whittled away with the relentless inquisition of various government stealth taxes and levies.

During all those years despite the hardship, austerity and deprivation, unemployment and emigration, the good people of this country remain stoic and resigned to their lot.


Even the recent medical card shambles failed to rouse the people to register some form of public protest against an uncaring and callous government.

All that changed last Saturday when tens of thousands of people protested in O'Connell Street against the introduction of the water charges. The mouse had finally roared.

The mood and resolve of the protesters prompted one prominent commentator, the ex-Justice Minister Michael McDowell, to predict that "we are in political earthquake". It was a body blow to a Government already reeling from the fallout of the McNulty Case.

Against the background of the water protest came the disastrous performance of Labour and Fine Gael in last Saturday's two by-elections in Dublin and Roscommon/Leitrim. It was no coincidence that the winner in Dublin South-West, Paul Murphy (below), ran on an explicit anti-austerity platform.

The weeks of growing pressure almost certainly led to the concession in yesterday's budget to grant relief to many householders on their water charges.


The Government have finally realised the seething anger and despair and sense of betrayal bubbling beneath the surface.

The people of this country are sick of austerity that has destroyed the heart of the nation - and is something that won't be reduced in one Budget.

Last Saturday's gathering sent a clear and unambiguous signal that people have had enough and will no longer be trampled on.

I have no doubt these three events - last Saturday's water protest, the McNulty Affair and woeful by-election results - alarmed and panicked the Government.

They'll hope that what they've given back will earn them votes in the next election. But austerity won't be forgotten that quickly.