100,000 march in national protest
100,000 march in national protest

The protest against the manner in which the financial crisis is being handled by the Dublin government today has seen the largest march in the capital in several years.

The march was forced to begin fifteen minutes earlier than scheduled this afternoon to accommodate the sheer number of people gathering in Dublin’s Parnell Square.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), organisers of the march, say more than 100,000 people are in attendance. The first protesters had reached the Dail parliament as people waited to begin marching at Parnell Square on the north side of the city.

The ICTU says the march is likely to be the first step in a campaign in support of “a fairer and better way” of dealing with the economic crisis.

March organisers have stressed the protest demonstrates opposition to the recently announced pension levy for public sector staff, but also for private sector workers to express concern about issues such as wage cuts and unemployment.

In a statement issued this morning, Brian Cowen’s coalition government called for an “integrated national response to the current crisis”, something which it said had been recognised by the trade union movement.

The statement described the pension levy as “reasonable” and said it reflected “the reality that we are not in a position to continue to meet the public service pay bill in the circumstances of declining revenue”.

It is understood that trade union leaders are considering the possibility of balloting members in both the public and private sectors for industrial action. Such a move would be aimed at ending divisions between public and private sector workers.

About 13,000 lower-paid civil and public servants, who are members of the CPSU, are to stage a one-day strike next Thursday. Thousands of other workers in the education sector and in the Civil Service are balloting on industrial action, while bus workers are scheduled to strike within two weeks.


Meanwhile, at the Sinn Féin annual conference which is taking place this weekend, Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has called for an an independent inspector to discover the true scale of the problems in Irish banks and to jail bankers found guilty of corruption.

“The time for speculation as to the state of the banks’ balance sheets is over. We need to have the truth,” said Ms McDonald, who is taking over as the party’s Vice-President.

Delivering the main speech to the opening night of the party’s ard fheis, the Dublin MEP said all of the banks’ senior executives must be sacked - “not retirement with golden handshakes”.

“The golden circle involved in dubious investment at Anglo-Irish must be named and shamed.

“They are not heroes. There was no patriotism in their actions. Fianna Fail and the Greens must stop protecting the Anglo circle.

“To the back-slapping clique, Ulick McEvaddy and his friends, Mary Harney and Charlie McCreevy, we say: ‘the taxpayer owns this bank; the taxpayer is now in charge; the taxpayer cannot be left in the dark’.”

She said bank executives must not only face the abolition of future bonuses and cuts in salaries, but should also face having to repay “mispaid bonuses and overblown bonuses” given in the past.

Criticising the government’s two billion Euro spending cuts, Ms McDonald said: “The Irish people will tighten their belts but only when we see those at the top tightening theirs. Sinn Féin will protect no privileged clique.”

The government’s actions “run the risk of deepening the recession and undermining our ability to rebuild the economy”, she said, but added that “there is a way forward”.

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