On Saturday February 9, up to 100,000 people took to the streets of the 26 Counties in a display of mass opposition to austerity, with demonstrations taking place in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Sligo, Galway and Waterford.
The ‘day of action’, which was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions [ICTU], attracted support from a wide range of anti-austerity groups and political parties.
Despite some scepticism over the organiser’s intentions, republicans and socialists of all kinds joined the protests. The Dublin march also included a contingent from the Campaign Against the Household and Water Tax, made up of local branches from across the city and surrounding counties. CAHWT groups displayed a variety of banners calling on ICTU to formally come on board with the CAHWT and join the fight against the home tax.
However, ICTU officials were accused by some anti-austerity groups of “going through the motions”. Eirigi said that the protests had been deliberately stage-managed to ease public anger.
“In Dublin, those who were expecting to hear ICTU outline its battle plans for a workers’ fight-back were sorely disappointed by the variety show that materialised on the main stage,” they said.
Non-union groups complained that their movements had been restricted and redirected by a combination of ICTU stewards and the Gardai police.
“Once again the leadership of ICTU have shown that they are unwilling and unable to provide leadership to the Irish working class, or indeed to play any meaningful role in the fight-back against austerity,” eirigi said.
Speaking after the Dublin march, party spokesperson for Dublin’s South Inner City, Damien Farrell, said the huge turnout had confirmed that people were angry.
“I have no doubt that Fine Gael and Labour are worried by the potential of such demonstrations, but that potential has to actually be delivered,” he said.
“Protests alone, no matter how large, on the occasional Saturday afternoon will not defeat austerity. What’s needed now is a sustained, rolling campaign of protests, civil disobedience and direct action.
“If ICTU’s leadership are serious about opposing austerity, then they should formally come on board with the CAHWT and commit themselves to defeating both the property and water taxes. By working together the organised labour movement, the various anti-austerity campaigns and progressive political groupings have the potential to mobilise hundreds of thousands of people into a movement that can win the war against austerity.”