Workers in struggle
Workers in struggle

The turnout of over 120,000 at Saturday’s national demonstration in Dublin showed the depth of anger among workers at the handling of the economic crisis by the 26 County government.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), which organised the march, said it was campaigning for “a fairer and better way” of dealing with the economic crisis.

It said the demonstration was the first action in the union’s campaign and “other actions will follow around the country, as required”.

Speaking afterwards, ICTU president David Begg said workers from both the public and private sector had sent out a powerful message.

“The Government is looking at what’s happening here today and will conclude indeed that it does have a strong measure of public support and will engage with us and try to deal with what is an unprecedented problem with our country,” he said.

Impact, one of dozens of unions involved in the protest, said the turnout represented a huge outpouring of anger by members over issues such as the new pensions levy. It said public sector workers were ready to share the burden of economic recovery, but were angered by the way in which public servants were singled out for such a “harsh and inequitable” penalty.

The Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) which represents around 13,000 lower paid civil servants, said Brian Cowen’s overnment must now go back to the drawing board over the pensions levy. “This is a massive turnout and we’re saying, ‘no, go away and think again’,” said CPSU president Dennis Walsh.

“This isn’t a pension levy, it’s a pay cut and the Government needs to be honest about this.

“If they want our co-operation, they’ll have to learn to deal with people properly and not present this as a fait accompli to workers and then let bankers discuss whatever deals they want.”

Speaking at the march, eirigi chairperson Brian Leeson stated, “I am delighted to see so many people expressing their disapproval of this system as working men and women of Ireland.

“It is becoming clearer by the day that the present economic system cannot and should not be sustained as it continues to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

“There has been no greater example of this than the recent use of public money to fund the greediest institutions of all - the banks.

“I would call on people to continue to voice their outrage at the manner in which the 26-County government is propping up the current economic status quo, and to fight the attacks on workers using all means at their disposal.”


Thursday saw the first strike action, a one-day stoppage by members of the Civil and Public Services Union (CPSU) against the new pension levy.

This move affected services across a range of Government departments, as well as social welfare and passport offices.

Speaking from the picket line outside the Dublin parliament, Sinn Féin Workers Rights Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD said the party was unanimously showing solidarity with the workers against what he said was a “grossly inequitable” levy and “a tax on public service”.

“The rushing through of this legislation in the face of such fierce opposition both in the Dail and on the streets is completely unacceptable to Sinn Féin and we make an eleventh hour appeal to the government not to enact this legislation and to heed the call from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for the reopening of social partnership talks,” he said.

Separately, tens of thousands of other public service staff are currently balloting for industrial action.

This includes members of the three teaching unions as well as 10,000 members of the PSEU, which represents mid-ranking civil servants.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association is also carrying out a ballot of members on industrial action.

However, strikes at Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann, due to start this weekend, have been called off after management agreed to engage with the two main unions over their cost-cutting plans.


Meanwhile, he Dublin headquarters of Anglo Irish Bank were raided on Tuesday by fraud squad officers in a probe into what is feared may become Ireland’s biggest white-collar crime scandal.

Garda police investigators searched the bank’s St Stephen’s Green offices for books, documents and other materials after they were called in by the Financial Regulator’s office.

Anglo Irish Bank was nationalised last month after its share price plummeted amid a wave of controversies, including a 451 million Euro loans-for-shares scandal, revelations about secret loans to former chairman Sean FitzPatrick amounting to over a hundred million Euro and a sham multibillion-euro deposit through a supposed rival bank to boost its books.

A group of fifteen individuals also received massive loans of over 500 million Euro each in the latest ‘golden circle’ revelation to emerge in recent days.

The morning raid followed remarks by 26-County transport minister Noel Dempsey on Monday in which he accused those involved in wrongdoing at the bank of engaging in “economic treason”.

Losses incurred by the Irish taxpayer as a result of the suspect transactions at the bank could amount to billions of Euros.

Mr Dempsey said he and his cabinet colleagues wanted to see the people responsible pay a price”. However, the coalition government has so far refused to name the individuals involved in the transactions, many of whom are believed to be long-time Fianna Fail supporters.

Arthur Morgan has welcomed news of the Garda fraud squad raid, but questioned why the Gardai were not sent in when the Government received the Price Waterhouse Cooper report on the bank in October.

He went on to call for a freeze on the bank accounts of the former directors of Anglo Irish bank including Sean Fitzpatrick’s bank account.

Deputy Morgan also repeated his call on the Government to release the names of the ‘Golden Circle’ so that the Gardai can focus their attention on their homes and offices before all material evidence is destroyed.

“Government claims that they cannot release the names for legal reasons are bogus as Dail privilege supersedes any legislation in this regard. The fact is that the Government can name these ten fraudsters if they so wish. They should do so immediately in the national interest.”

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