The early-morning destruction by the Gardai police of the ‘Occupy Dame Street’ protest camp took place as the divide between Ireland’s 99% and a ruling elite appeared wider than ever.
Up to 100 gardai and officials from Dublin City Council were involved in the operation, which got under way at about 3.30am on Thursday morning.
Up to 15 protesters were kept outside a perimeter, while the site around the Central Bank was cleared.
They had been camping at the site since last October in solidarity with the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ demonstration in New York and other international protests against capitalism and exploitation.
About 70 campaigners later held a protest outside Pearse Street Garda station.
The protesters, some wearing Irish flags, others carrying signs, chanted “whose streets, our streets” and “We are the 99 per cent” and engaged in sit-down protests near the garda station. Some streets close to the station were closed as the protest took place.
Three members of the group - Steven Bennett, Saoirse Bennet and Liam Mac an Bhaird - entered the Garda station to negotiate the return of the protesters’ belongings.
There were angry scenes between protesters and gardai outside the Dublin city-centre station, and at least two of the campaigners suffered injuries.
“They may have destroyed the camp, but they haven’t destroyed the movement,” said Steven Bennett.
The Dame Street ‘eviction’ took place in the same week tens of thousands of desperate Irish unemployed laid siege to a foreign jobs expo, forcing it to close its doors to alleviate a crush.
Efforts to revive the 26 County economy has exacerabated the polarisation between the haves and have-nots of Irish society. There are signs of a fight-back: recently terminated workers in County Cork are entering the fourth month of a sit-in at the Vita Cortex factory in a campaign for a basic redundancy package.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, who visited the workers this week, said it was “shameful” the way the workers were being treated and what they and their families were going through to get what are “modest entitlements”.
“At the same time, it’s very uplifting to see the spirit of the workers and to know that they have significant support here in Cork, across the island and abroad.”
Elsewhere, Gardai were seen to attack the vehicle of a local community worker in County Mayo who has campaigned against Shell’s development of a controversial multi-billion euro natural gas project in the environmentally sensitive area.
A video of the incident shows the Garda smashing the car window of John Monaghan at a checkpoint and threatening to pepper-spray him, even though he was attempting to comply with the Garda’s directions at the time.
Monaghan is to complain to the Police Ombudsman about the incident, the latest in a long-running struggle to fight against the exploitation of Ireland’s natural resources.
But for Ireland’s 1%, the week also saw difficulties.
The heads of some well-known Irish voluntary and charitable organisations were embarrassingly forced to admit that they had paid themselves large salary increases and new ‘bonus’ payments, even though they are mostly state-funded.
And a former founder and CEO of international financial institution Zurich Capital Management also made the headlines when Sinn Féin questioned his appointment as the secretary general in the 26-County Department of Finance.
Donegal TD Pearse Doherty pointed out that John Moran’s firm was found guilty of engaging in white-collar crime in New York in 2003. The lack of a debate on Moran’s appointment to one of the state’s highest-paid positions saw Mr Doherty expelled from the Dáil after he persisted with questions on the affair.
And anger over the economic crisis forced the Dublin government to cancel a ‘media spectacular’ to celebrate its first year in office. The planned event would have involved Fine Gael’s 100 TDs and Senators and seen colourfully-dressed Fine Gael Ministers bizarrely waving giant stars to represent their ‘achievements’.
But it was aborted when it earned a withering criticism from coalition colleague Labour Minister Pat Rabbitte, who described it as “silly” and inappropriate.
The last-minute cancellation produced an embarrassing climbdown for Fine Gael. Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald admitted the party “certainly wouldn’t want to be seen to be celebrating in any way at a time which is so difficult for so many people.”