21 February 2009

the time is right for a palace revolution

Just back from this afternoon's national protest march from Parnell Square to Merion Square. The Gardai estimate the turnout to be over 60,000, the Unions put it at around 120,000 and the media is going with a figure of around 100,000. All I know is that we were still standing outside the Hugh Lane Gallery by the Garden of Remembrance waiting to start moving as the head of the March arrived at the Dail. It took us an hour and a half to walk the route, around 2k, and by the time we arrived at Merion Square the speeches were almost over and people had started to go home.

I marched with the Very Understanding Girlfriend and a group of lectures from a college that I used to work with, and talking with them brought home just how hard the government's changes are going to hit. On top of the 1% Income levy and the new Pension levy that will take effect on March 1st, the college is now forced to cut back on teaching hours in spite of larger student numbers. Jobs are being lost and those who remain are faced with an increased struggle just to make ends meet. The long term effects of this will be seen in the reduced caliber of graduates that will enter the job market in future years.

The Government should accept that there is no quick fix to the economic downturn, and that the recession is only getting started. It should use this time to increase the tax on the wealthiest 1% who have reaped the most benefit out of the last ten years of the Celtic Tiger, and then reverse the cuts and invest more in education, banking on our future human capital to make Ireland as attractive a place for international investment in five years time as it was in the late 90s and hope to stimulate a second golden age of growth. Unfortunately our Government is focused on the short-term, saving their own political skins at the expense of the rest of the nation.

It was good today to see so many groups come together, Unions from both the Public and Private sector, student groups and political parties, all marching side by side in solidarity in numbers not seen since the anti-war protests in the lead up to the US invasion of Iraq. The talk on the streets of Dublin today was of a series of national strikes; the unions were looking to today's march as a measure of public support for future action, and 100,000 people turned out, 2.5% of the population of the entire country, and this is only the start.

The people of Ireland are calling for change, but the only politicians who can bring this about are the Greens. They need to listen to the will of the people and do the right thing, they need to leave government and trigger an election. They need to put the interests of the country before their own political ambition. They need to do it to save their soul.

Waves of similar protests in Iceland and Latvia have brought down governments. We are living in truly interesting times.

Links
My photos of the march
Irish Times coverage
BBC Coverage

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