Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has lent his support to tens of thousands attending a Right2Water/Right2Change protest in Dublin today [Saturday, February 20] ahead of Friday’s general election.
He says Ireland faces a “stark choice” at the next election between those who have imposed austerity on the Irish people and those who have an alternative vision.
Speaking via video link at a Right2Change meeting in the Mansion House last week, he said that Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure, were both part of a conspiracy to crush the Irish people.
“The Irish general election will either condone and legitimise the Irish people’s violation at the hands of an unscrupulous local regime and a brutal European Central Bank, “ he said. “Or the general election will repudiate and condemn those who violated the Irish people. Your government did what all oligarchs wanted them to do - they blamed the victims.
“Kenny said Irish people went mad borrowing. Really? What happened is that a small band of Irish international bankers, developers and politicians built up a gargantuan debt that you have to take on.”
Mr Varoufakis, an academic economist, became Greece’s finance minister when Syriza took power in January 2015. He resigned seven months later after the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras reneged on a promise to renegotiate Greece’s debt deal with the EU.
He accused Mr Noonan of failing to support debt relief for the Greek people at EU level because it would draw attention to his own failure to fulfil his commitments to get debt relief for Irish people too.
“Now you have a chance to send Mr Noonan packing. Our struggle was also a struggle for the Irish people. If our moderate proposals prevailed, a template would have been created for Irish debt restructuring for the end of debt in Dublin.”
He said those involved in the Right2Change movement were seeking to put the “demos” back into Irish democracy “in a way the Irish people deserve.”
The movement, which sprung out of the anti-water-charges campaign and is backed by a range of left-wing and republican political parties and trade unions, is holding its final pre-election rally and protest in Dublin today.
The demonstration will start outside the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square at 2pm and will travel down O’Connell Street and onto the South Quay along Aston Quay, Wellington Quay and Essex Quay. Among those expected to address the rally is Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
Sinn Fein is the largest party in the alliance, which has developed a progressive platform and is backed by over one hundred election candidates. It represents the only chance of electing an alternative to another Fine Gael-led coalition.
There was a boost for the anti-water-charges campaign on Wednesday when the Dublin district court dismissed all charges against outgoing Independent TD Joan Collins and nine others who were on trial for public order offences arising out of a water protest last year.
The ten had been charged with failing to comply with the direction of a Garda to leave the vicinity of Parnell Road in Dublin 8 during a protest against water meter installation on 20 April 2015.
Outside court, Ms Collins said she felt vindicated by the court’s decision would have a very positive effect on future cases, and on the anti-water charges campaign itself.
She said they had won the right to effectively protest in their communities, but the prosecutions had been “an absolute disgrace” and a waste of Garda time and resources.
“I am really angry, this is not by accident that for three days during an election I have been pulled in here along with my colleagues in relation to the election,” she said.
“It should never have happened, I said that at the very beginning, what we were doing was legal that we had higher ground from the point of view of peaceful protesting.
“In my case the guards said we were violent, that we were aggressive, that we were using extremely foul language, and that has been absolutely wiped out in that courtroom over the past few days. We were not aggressive. We were peaceful and we stood our ground.
“It was heavy-handed policing, I believe it was political policing,” she added.
Republican Sinn Fein said one of its activists is before the court on related charges in May.
It described the case as “a sham trial from the start” which was designed to break the successful resistance to the water metering installations across Dublin.
It said would continue to support the right to protest and would be actively involved in further protests against metering and water taxation “which will ultimately lead to the privatization of yet another one of our natural resources.”