Thousands turned out in protest on Saturday, September 24 to march against the rising cost of living and increased hardship in both parts of Ireland.
A march in Dublin city center, which passed from Parnell Square to Merrion Square, was supported by 30 organisations including trade unionists, student and grassroots campaigns, under the banner of the Cost of Living Coalition.
The soaring cost of food, rent and utility bills were the main concerns of marchers young and old.
Protestors chanting “prices are rising and so are we” and “housing is a right not a privilege” brought traffic to a standstill for a period. The names of the three coalition government party leaders were booed as the crowd chanted “out, out, out”.
Sinn Féin leader Mary-Lou McDonald led a delegation from her party among the crowds. She accused the government of “not listening to ordinary people”.
Ms McDonald said: “This cost-of-living crisis shows again the huge inequalities that exist in Ireland.”
“We need much more than a change of Taoiseach. We need a change of government. We need a government of the people and a government for real change.”
Ms McDonald called for rent to be reduced and a ban on rent rises for at least three years, as well as better funding for health care and disability services, and cuts to the cost of childcare by two thirds.
She said: “They need to do all of this and this needs to be done now, with a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose.”
Homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry told the crowd Ireland was a “failing society that is failing our young people”.
“How would any young person who has completed a course at third level stay in Ireland? They will never own a home. They will pay 40-50 per cent of their income to a landlord who can evict them at any time,” he said.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ Seamus Dooley, Union of Students in Ireland president Beth O’Reilly, the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament’s Imelda Brown and Access For All’s Sophia Mulvaney also addressed the gathering.
A similar rally took place in Derry on the same day. The demonstration in Guildhall Square on Saturday afternoon was organised by the mayor of Derry City and Strabane, Sandra Duffy, to highlight what she termed the “cost-of-living emergency”.
“Workers, families, business in this town are struggling to pay their bills,” she said.
“We need action now. We need an Executive up and running so that all parties can work together to put money back in people’s pockets.”
The Dublin government, which announced its annual statement of fiscal measures on Wednesday, was accused of merely tinkering with the economy.
The announcement of one-off payments and tax reliefs would be “swallowed up” by inflation and soaring rents before they could make a difference in people’s pockets, according to Sinn Fein’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty.
He said the package demonstrated that the coalition did not understand the scale of the cost-of-living crisis.
The budget contained too many instances of the Dublin government “making the wrong choices or deciding on more of the same”, he said.
The Donegal TD also criticised a failure to cap electricity prices at pre-inflationary crisis levels.
“The Government had the opportunity to give people certainty as they face into a winter of rising costs, certainty about energy costs, certainty on rents, certainty that those on fixed incomes would be shielded from the price rises that they have seen,” said Mr Doherty.
“They had an opportunity to plan for the future and deliver on housing, and on health, and on a real climate action. But they haven’t done that today.”
But the failures of the 26 County budget were overshadowed by the disastrous and shocking mini-budget announced by the Tories in London.
An undisguised attempt by new British PM Liz Truss to further enrich the rich featured measures such as eliminating the top rate of tax and lifting a cap on bankers’ pay.
As a result of a sudden collapse in economic confidence in the wake of the announcements, a £65bn bailout was required from the Bank of England to stave off a run on Sterling.
Sinn Féin’s Caoimhe Archibald described it as a “scandalous mess”. She called on the London government to “stop lining the pockets of the super-rich and instead support ordinary people”.
Enforced interest rate hikes would make mortgages unaffordable, Ms Archibald warned.
“Ordinary people and businesses are struggling to pay their bills and keep the shutters up, while the British government is driving more misery,” she said.
“The International Monetary Fund (IMF), who previously called for austerity, are now exposing the scale of the mess the Tories are creating with this Budget and calling on them to reverse this bad decision making.
“I am reiterating the call on the Tories to abandon their ideologically driven financial catastrophe stop lining the pockets of the rich and support working people who are struggling.
“What we need now is a tax break for small businesses, more funding for public services, support for workers and a Windfall Tax to cut energy companies’ eye-watering profits. Workers and families need money in their pockets now.”