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Our children have lost faith in democracy by seeing protests ignored

I'D LIKE to say we're just terrible at protesting in this country, but I don't think that's enough of an excuse for the rather embarrassing, middle class mob of college teachers, parents and civil servants who have found another use for their Electric Picnic pop-up tents at the Central Bank.

Like the sociology lecturer who has written in these pages already this week about his part in the 'Occupy Dame Street' demonstration, I am a father.

I have four children and have wrestled in the past with this notion of 'what shall I tell them I did about all this madness?'

But unlike Dr Tom Boland, I don't think I'll ever have a problem looking my children in the eye because when the future of society was at stake, I didn't run around the banking district in a burglar costume.


In fact, of all the things I've ever done to make my children cringe (and the list is long), I am happy that the idea of creeping around the city looking like a bad mime act has been consigned to the bin alongside 'stripping vicar'.

Sure, I'm a cynic. But I have good reason to be. And earnest, well-fed faces lit by iPods, camping out in the tourist district and sipping chai lattes through the night while they try to find clever uses of the letters IMF and ECB, will not quickly assuage that cynicism.

But like many tens of thousands of others, it's not like I've never believed in protest.

Eight years ago, I thought we could make a real difference -- about war in Iraq, before a single shot had been fired and the man on the street and his dog already knew the whole 'weapons of mass destruction' excuse for invasion was taking us for fools.

We didn't just occupy Dame Street though. So many people of every age and every background descended on the city that the march couldn't move. More than 100,000 brought the city to a standstill as the head of the march met the tail.

It's not like we're not good at protesting in this country.

It was probably the first and last time that average families from all over the country felt right about raising their voices alongside students, socialists, even Shinners, against something everyone believed was wrong, that tens of thousands of people would be killed in the cause of corporate interest, for oil.

The same march happened all over the globe.

A sea of people organised, long before Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerrys had our thumbs all a-fumble. We walked forth with, carried or wheeled our children at that march and we looked them in the eye. 'This is how you change things', that look said.

My youngest is almost nine now and even she knows that at least 100,000 people have been killed in Iraq. Thankfully, she doesn't remember the promise our eyes made to our children on that march.

So you can't blame the quaint little crowd Twittering from their turquoise and lavender tents in Temple Bar on an innate apathy or inability to protest in this country.

That's simply not true.

And the fact that they are not being joined by 999,980 others this time does not necessarily mean that the rest of us don't care that we have been duped, robbed and enslaved by the very people we entrusted to power.

Nor does it mean that we're happy to do nothing and care less again about what our children think of us.

In fact, if we've any sense, we should be losing plenty of sleep about just what our children think of us right now.

Perhaps revenge is a dish best served cold, but I feel my kids are waiting in the long grass.

Think I'm a cynic?

I've rarely seen children with such hard noses as the generation who, without perhaps being able to verbalise it as succinctly as a pat printout pasted to poster-board on a Central Bank railing, now know that 'democracy' as we know it is a farce and that protest is pointless.

I would hate to even begin guessing what they are planning, but it scares the hell out of me.