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About 10,000 people took part in an anti-austerity protest through the streets of Dublin today, according to a Garda spokeswoman. Organisers put the figure at twice that number, however.
Marchers began to assemble around the Garden of Remembrance from midday.
The demonstrators were led by a young woman wearing a white mask and riding a dark horse with a banner reading “No to austerity” draped around it. Road closures were in place in Dublin city centre as the march made its way from Parnell Square, through O’Connell Street, onto d’Olier Street, before returning onto O’Connell Street, where speeches took place outside the GPO.
As the front of the march crossed over O’Connell Bridge back to the northside, the rear of the demonstration was still making its way onto the other end of O’Connell Street from Parnell Square.
Michael O’Reilly, president of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions (DCTU), which co-organised the gathering, said it was just one step in a long campaign to reverse cutbacks.
“The evidence is clear – you cannot cut your way out of a recession,” he told protesters gathered outside the GPO on O’Connell Street.
“On the contrary: with each cut in public spending, and with each euro taken out of the pockets of low and average earners in new or increased taxes, we are digging ourselves further into a hole.”
The march, organised by the Campaign Against Household and Water Charges, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and supported by the ICTU, Siptu and other trade unions, was also joined by members of People Before Profit Alliance, Sinn Féin and the Socialist party, organisations including the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed and groups and individuals from around the country.
The march was also supported by regional groups, among them organisations from Monaghan, Donegal, Waterford, Kilkenny and Cork, which are variously opposed to the household tax, water charges and the septic tank charge.
Sean Walsh, who is part of a group from Portlaw, Co Waterford, which is opposed to the household charge, said he was “very encouraged” by today’s turnout.
“The effect [of austerity] is that it’s slowly tripping the country, slowly but surely and slowly affecting all business. In the rural areas the shopkeepers and publicans and so forth, they are slowly being put out of business and slowly being ground to a halt. It’s a simple message: austerity is not working, and we must fight it and we must get the message across to the Government,” he said.
The march was also attended by individuals including Wesley Fitzgibbons, a fitter who was with his four-year-old son Liam, who said he simply could not take any more cuts.
“We just feel that the Government is hitting the middle working class all the time. There’s nothing else there to take. People are working more hours to make ends meet and at end of the month we’re just barely scraping by,” he said.
Independent TD Finian McGrath said he had joined the march because “austerity is not working and the Government have to face that”.
The main reason he was there was because he was “absolutely furious about the way families and adults and children with a disability are being treated with services being cut at the moment”.
“People are here from a wide range of Irish society. A lot of community groups, the drugs groups, the disability groups, the unemployed…but they are here for one main reason – first of all, yes, they are afraid, but they have accepted the reality that even the IMF are saying that austerity is not working as an economic strategy to deal with the crisis.”
As the crowds assembled to hear speeches outside the GPO there were cheers as two men, who had draped a banner from the roof of a five-storey building reading “Shame on Labour”, lit a flare on top of the building.
As president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Eugene McGlone, was introduced to the crowd he was met by boos and shouts of “strike”.
Siptu president Jack O’Connor later condemned this interruption, which he said was conducted by a small minority and represented “a sinister trend which has developed over the recent past and that bears all the hall marks of fascism”.
He said he had witnessed a number of people carrying Sinn Féin banners accompanied by others carrying United Left Alliance posters participating in this activity and that he would be requesting that the general secretary of Congress speak with the leadership of both parties.
“I want to make it very clear that I am not alleging that either of the organisations approved of, or condoned, fascist activity of this kind. But the fact of the matter is that is being carried on by people who are either associated with their organisations or elements who are very deliberately masquerading as such for reasons best known to themselves.
“The time has come to draw a line on the activities of this tiny minority who would deny the right to freedom of speech and which, once again has tried to besmirch a demonstration against the failed one sided austerity approach which saw more than 20,000 turn out behind the banner of the Dublin Congress of Trade Unions.”
The DCTU is planning another demonstration outside the Dáil on the day of the budget, December 5th.
Up to 10,000 people are expected to take to the streets of Dublin in a weekend protest march against Government austerity measures.
Tommy McKearney, of Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes – one of the organisers – said the march would be a message to the Government that it was not elected to impoverish the people.
“Nor are they there to promote the policies of austerity across Europe by being the example of the poor peasant who would prefer to starve rather than refuse to pay the rent as we may have said in the previous century,” said Mr McKearney.
“We’re not going to tolerate that as a people. We will challenge and resist this drive towards impoverishing our people by austerity.”
Communities Against Cuts, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) and the Spectacle of Defiance and Hope are among the other organisers.
DCTU president Michael O’Reilly warned the Government was likely to introduce a budget that would further cripple the country for a sixth year running.
He said it was unacceptable that 300,000 people are unemployed and that 1 million are living in deprivation following the collapse of the economy.
“That is why we are asking people to join us on November 24 and send a clear message to Government Buildings in advance of the budget,” he added.
“We need to change direction and start focusing on growth and investment rather than destructive cuts.”
Speakers will include household charge opponent and Socialist Party councillor Ruth Coppinger and a spokesman from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
John Bissett, of Spectacle, said the march would also include music from a string quartet and puppets.
“I’m hopeful this will be provocative, interesting and helpful,” he said.
The campaigners have called for the Government to protect the poor on Budget day and to avoid the closure of local services, jobs and community projects.
They will also appeal to those taking part to picket the Dail on December 5, as a mark of solidarity against cuts.