Protestors at Tuesday night’s ‘Enough is Enough’ march, called by the Right to Work campaign, were subjected to a sudden attack by panicked Garda police outside the Dublin parliament.
A wide variety of socialist and republican organisations supported the march directly or indirectly, including People before Profit, Sinn Fein, and the Socialist Workers’ Movement.
The purpose of the march was to protest against the coalition government’s economic policy and demand an alternative to cuts and redundancies.
Over a thousand marchers made their way peacefully, from the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square through the city to Leinster House. But as protesters assembled on Kildare Street, the atmosphere changed.
Unusually for the evening of a protest, the gates to Leinster House were left open, and as the crowd grew on Kildare Street, members of the Gardai panicked, and a baton charge of the crowd was ordered.
In scenes reminiscent of the ‘Reclaim the Streets’ march in Dublin a number of years ago, the Gardai made a frenzied attack on the peaceful protesters, injuring a number of them including a 62-year-old woman.
Brian Leeson, chairperson of eirigi which also participated in the demonstration, called for people to gather at Anglo-Irish Bank on Saturday in response to the Garda violence.
Leeson said: “Last night’s attack on peaceful protestors outside Leinster House highlights, yet again, the attitude of the Twenty-Six County establishment towards those who are not fortunate enough to be a member of the golden circle.
“People have a right to protest and they have a right to engage in acts of civil disobedience given the nature of the crisis we are facing.”
Three weeks ago, a number of eirigi activists occupied the bank in protest at the Dublin government’s bail-out of the business class. To mark the 94th anniversary of James Connolly’s execution on Saturday, eirigi has organised a demonstration against the bank bail-out and anti-social cuts outside Anglo-Irish Bank’s headquarters at Stephen’s Green in Dublin.
Leeson added: “The time for polite discussion about the economic crisis Ireland is facing is well and truly over. While bankers, developers and a whole coterie of business people have been protected by Leinster House politicians, working people have paid the price. This is not a sustainable situation.
“The message needs to go out immediately that working class people will not stand idly by while public services are slashed, jobs are binned, wages are cut and the infrastructure of their communities is decimated. Now is the time for a mass campaign of protest and civil disobedience, now is the time for action.
“It is fitting that eirigi will be marking James Connolly’s execution this year by challenging the bankers who have robbed the Irish people blind. It was Connolly himself who said that ‘we believe in constitutional action in ordinary times and revolutionary action in extraordinary times - these are extraordinary times’.”
CUTS START TO BITE
The closure of emergency wards at Irish hospitals and the scrapping of certain college courses are underway as budget cuts begin to bite into public services.
There is widespread concern that the closures could soon cost lives, the first direct fatalities Ireland’s economic crisis.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is drawing up plans to close or limit opening hours at hospital emergency departments across the country.
Sean McGrath, the HSE national director of human resources, said it was “no longer sustainable to have so many emergency departments open 24 hours”.
Universities will be forced to cancel some courses this autumn, according to an internal memo at the Department of Education and Skills.
Meanwhile, banks are preparing to pursue the parents of defaulting mortgage borrowers, who have guaranteed their children’s homeloans.
Several banks are preparing to call on the guarantees in response to spiralling mortgage arrears and mounting loan losses, according to a report in the Sunday Business Post.
The banks have begun looking to parental guarantees following the collapse in house prices, which has left up to 300,000 borrowers around the country in negative equity.
The move could see parents forced to make significant cash payments to banks if their sons or daughters default on their mortgages.
Parental guarantees became popular during the property bubble, as borrowers used them to obtain loan approval when they would have been unable to take out a loan on their own, or to increase the amount they could borrow.
On Thursday, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen controversially defended his management of the 26-County ‘bubble economy’ in the years leading up to the crash, but admitted the economic and banking crisis was made worse by government mistakes.
“Those who suggest I did nothing to curb the property spiral specifically ignore the fact that in presenting my 2006 budget, I announced the most radical abolition of property-based tax incentives made by any recent minister for finance,” he said.
Fine Gael finance spokesman Richard Bruton last night said the speech read “like a sad attempt” to pre-empt the findings of the banking inquiry. “The Taoiseach is fooling nobody if he thinks that catastrophic mistakes were not made during his time as minister for finance.
Mr Cowen had contemptuously dismissed those who questioned what the government was doing, he added. “Brian Cowen repeatedly said that Ireland’s property bubble was based on sound economic fundamentals. He built up unaffordable spending programmes on the back of property revenues that could not possibly be sustained and that have spectacularly aggravated the crisis we face,” Mr Bruton said.