The protest Saturday week (the 27th November) was great. Huge turnout, despite the snow and the chilly toes; the general consensus was somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000. Fintan O’ Toole was an excellent MC, and there were some deadly banners on display. Thankfully, there was no violence, bar the skirmish outside the Dáil, where the Gardaí seemed to be hiding in wait (they didn’t really make their presence felt at the actual protest, I guess after the embarrassment of leaving the gates of the Dáil open they didn’t want anyone sneaking in again). It finally felt like the country is prepared to mobilize itself against the shower in power, who reckon they can get away with making us pay for the gambling debts of a small number of ignorant, treacherous scumbags.
Yet, many people did not feel the need to attend the protest, with excuses ranging from “I don’t want to be aligned with ICTU” (the trade union who organised the protest) or “Sure isn’t it too late, the IMF are already here, aren’t they?”
First, the fear of being aligned with ICTU, or indeed any trade union, political party, interest group, etc. Although the ICTU organised the protest, they did not have the run of it. This was evident from the frosty reception both Jack O’ Connor and David Begg of ICTU received from those gathered in front of the podium (to be honest, why we need to hear people tell us why we’re protesting is slightly beyond me, I suppose a focal point is needed, but could it not be a samba band or a soundsystem or something that doesn’t have wrinkles/want my vote…maybe I’m just a bit skeptical is all). People would have been on general strike already if these very unions had not received a slice of the pie (for more details on this, and indeed an excellent overview of Irish political and economic developments from the 80s to the present day, check Aidan O’ Regan’s blog on Irish Public Policy).
Anyway, one cannot avoid standing near or under a banner or flag of some sort at such a protest, it’s inevitable. Plus, I have never heard of someone not wanting to got to Croke Park for a big game for fear of being caught on the Sunday Game standing under the flag of a county they weren’t born in (eh, loose enough metaphor there but you get my drift, yeah?). Fookin right you wouldn’t, the point is they’re making so much noise for their county the flag above them is irrelevant! Perhaps there’s something buried away in the Irish psyche that leads to the fear of allegiance, the worry of being seen as a leftie, or a republican, or even a trade unionist (prior to the deals brokered in the 80s, trade unions were seen as obstacles to progress, what with their constant protesting when good, dishonest money could be made). And maybe this mindset leads people to quickly denounce such unions or parties at the drop of a hat… BUT! How about instead of being opposed to those who aren’t in government, why don’t we just get out there and protest against those who are calling the shots??? Sure, we could be on general strike if it weren’t for the unions, but would you even bother if we could? “Can’t go out and strike lads, gotta catch up on my Google Reader.” The point is, we should quit this attitude of moaning about everyone who isn’t in government and get out there and make some noise! Let the government know how angry we are that we’ve got to foot the bill for their gambling debt.
Regarding whether or not it’s too late to protest – BOLLOCKS. Wouldn’t we love that. Then we could all just sit around and give out about how no-one did anything. Handy. But we, or whatever shape of government will be replacing the crumbling cabinet, don’t have to be bound by the terms of the bailout deal. Default, a la Argentina. Do an Iceland on it, they were in the shit like us two years ago, check out how they’re getting their country rejigged now. OK, so neither country was in anything like the Eurozone, maybe we can’t just superimpose other countries experiences onto ours in the hope that they fit, but at least there are options. Ireland, as a republic, has been incredibly isolated before, and managed to survive it (The Emergency?). Again, looking to Argentina, they had a bad buzz for a year or two after they defaulted, but picked themselves up and got going again.
It’s all well and good to talk of defaulting and so on but how do we bring it about? How do we get our voices heard? To take a leaf from both Argentina and Iceland, their popular protest involved banging pots and pans outside government buildings. This is perfect for Irish people, who seem to feel a bit silly chanting sometimes (was it just me or was there very little noise for all the tens of thousands out on the 27th?). Just hit a pot with a stick instead. Or bang a drum. Grand, sure. It’s what happened last Saturday and it was great fun; felt like a two-hour percussion jam and was a savage way to keep warm.
Please do try and bring the noise today (Tuesday 7th December – Budget Day). Drums, pots, whistles, whatever you have. We need NOISE and SPECTACLE. Let’s try and step it up from the march on the 27th – make a mad racket! There’s lots of assembly points for today’s march, it’s up to you where you start off, but I strongly recommend being accompanied by a hip flask to survive the bitter weather!
Also, on Friday is Spectacle of Defiance. You creative types out there should get on this. Marching from City Hall to O’ Connell Street, via Central Bank, stopping for brief performances on the way. Gist is a protest against the hearts being ripped out of Irish communities by present government. Wear red and bring heart-shaped placards. Rehearsal on Wednesday for those interested in taking part.
Right, into town with me pot.