Ireland: 100,000 march in Dublin against austerity measures
David Begg, general secretary Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and folk singer Christy Moore at the Dublin Post Office, November 27, 2010.
November 29, 2010 -- Irish Republican News and other sources -- Up to 100,000 people took part in a march and rally organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) in Dublin on November 27 in protest at the government's planned program of austerity. At the main rally at the GPO in O'Connell Street, the site of the 1916 Easter Rising, speakers strongly criticised the government's four-year plan for economic recovery and the loss of sovereignty as a result of the European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout.
The general secretary of the ICTU, David Begg, said the country could not afford to pay the terms of the 85 billion euro loan. "Our gallant allies in Europe have arrived 95 years too late and uninvited, and instead of guns to help the revolution they have brought economic weapons of mass destruction. Does anybody in this country or in Dáil Éireann [parliament] think that we can as a people afford to pay 6.7 per cent on money that we did not ask for in the first place and that is being forced upon us to bail out the banking system in Europe which is in hock to this country for 509 billion? We can't pay that money and we won't pay that money."
Columnist Fintan O'Toole, who was the master of ceremonies at the rally, led the crowd in a minute's chant of "Out, Out, Out" to the government.
ICTU president Jack O'Connor said the aim of the rally was to object to the insistence of a government with no mandate "to draw up a plan and sign an agreement in our name which will decide the future of one or two generations of our people".
While speaking on the platform, Siobhan O'Donoghue of the Community Platform tore up a copy of the Government's four-year plan.
During their addresses, O'Connor and Begg were heckled and booed by sections of the crowd.
At around 2.15pm, just as crowds began to disperse from the rally on O'Connell Street, a number of left-wing groups began their own addresses from a stage at the O'Connell monument. Speakers, including Joe Higgins MEP (member of the European Parliament) of the Socialist Party and councillor Louise Minihan of Eirigi, criticised union leaders and called for a series of national strikes.
Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins said it was time the trade union movement was reclaimed. "The leadership is not leading a serious fightback in opposition to this disaster. The union leaders are simply saying bring down the debt over a longer period of time."
A small group of left-wing and republican protesters later held a protest outside the Dublin parliament.
National anger of `bailout'
The Dublin government triggered a torrent of national anger when it handed over economic sovereignty to EU and IMF administrators for an 85 billion euro loan. The bailout package for the 26-county state has been vehemently condemned by the opposition parties, who are now all expected to vote against Dublin's annual budget plan on December 7.
An average annual interest rate of 5.8% will apply to the loans -- a rate lower than the 6.7% that had been rumoured, but still significantly higher than that required of Greece in a similar bailout plan earlier this year. The repayment costs alone over the next four years approximate the 15 billion euro in austerity budget cuts and taxes which were outlined last week.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the government had negotiated "a terrible deal". "The 5.8% interest rate is unaffordable", he said. "The decision to force the state to take 17.5 billion euro out of the Pensions Reserve Fund to pour into black hole that is our banking system is a disaster.
"Sinn Fein had proposed 7 billion euro be taken from the Pension Reserve Fund for a jobs stimulus program. The government refused to do this. But now they are prepared to rob the pension fund to give a digout to the bankers.
"The decision to protect bondholders is disgraceful. The banks are getting another 15 billion euro while simultaneously 15 billion euro is being taken out the economy -- out of people's pockets. The costs of this deal to ordinary people will be deep and will result in hugely damaging cuts to public services, social welfare and wages."
Meanwhile, the government has denied that, under the constitution, the agreement must be approved by the Dublin parliament in a vote -- a position which is likely to lead to a court action.
The Labour Party sharply criticised the deal as a "national sell-out" that would leave Irish citizens saddled with a crippling debt for many years. The party was particulalry scathing at the decision to leave the majority of international bondholders -- mainly international and sovereign wealth funds -- unscathed.
"The Fianna Fail government has shown no backbone, no negotiating ability and no authority, said party leader Eamon Gilmore. The EU and the IMF have had a walk-over in negotiations with a broken and demoralised Government, that is serving out its notice and which has neither the political mandate nor the moral authority to conclude such a deal."
Gilmore's colleague Pat Rabbitte said the deal would "pauperise" the country. "Now we are going to bend the knee and do as we are told by our European masters." He said the raiding of the pension reserve fund would leave the cupboard bare. We have nothing to fall back on ... The European Central Bank has us where they want us", he said.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement called on the Irish people to "take back their sovereignty" through protest actions. In a statement, it called "on all republican organisations and the labour movement to unite and organise the shutting down of the state. This is not a time for righteous rhetoric or for tinkering with the status quo. It is a time to reach out and effect fundamental change for our people."
Socialist Democracy: Trade union anti-austerity rally brings tens of thousands onto streets of Dublin
By J.M. Thorn
November 29, 2010 -- Socialist Democracy -- Up to 100,000 people took part in an anti-austerity march and rally in Dublin on November 27. Organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) its stated purpose was to protest at the Dublin government’s planned budget. However, given the events of preceding weeks, in which the Irish state had been forced into accepting an EU bailout for its banks, the focus of the event was more generalised. It became an outlet for people’s anger and disgust at the political and business classes that had brought about such a debacle.
There had been speculation in the media that such a gathering could have the potential for major disturbances. On the day it passed off largely without incident. That it did is in large part down to ICTU doing everything in its power to limit any potential flashpoints. This was reflected in the choice of route for the march, from Wood Quay to the GPO, which avoided any potential targets for prospects such as government buildings and bank headquarters. The route of the march was so short that the front of the march had reached the GPO before people at the back had even left the starting point. The clear impression was that the ICTU wanted to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible. However, it wasn’t just psychical restraints that put limits on the rally, it was the political positions being put forward by the trade union leadership which imposed the severest limits.
These were clear in the speeches from the platform at the GPO. Even before a word was spoken the sight of tricolours and people dressed as 1916 volunteers gave a strong indication of what their content would be. The tone was set by Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole, who compered the event and also gave the opening address. He declared that despite the bailout debacle Irish people knew who they were, that there were citizens of a republican democracy. He pointed to the statue of Jim Larkin and the GPO building as symbols of how the Irish people had struggled for dignity and independence. They were again gathering outside the GPO to reclaim a sense of citizenship. O’Toole said that as the fate of Ireland was being decided in negotiations between government and EU officials, it was a case of “mind over matter”. The officials don’t mind, and the people didn’t matter. He said that the rulers of Ireland had no shame, and believed that the people have no voice. However, they were mistaken. "We are not subjects, we are citizens, and we want our Republic back", he declared.
O’Toole went on to criticise the four year, saying it was plan to save the “Irish elite”. He spoke of the "savage assault" on the minimum wage by the government and he said that cuts in social welfare would further impoverish people who were struggling to survive. In his concluding remarks O’Toole claimed that working people in Ireland did not mind making sacrifices. He said that they made sacrifices every day for their children, for their families and for their communities. However, they did not want to be the sacrifice. He ended his speech by declaring that the citizens of Ireland wanted their republic back. Keeping with the theme set by O’Toole, there then followed a series of readings from the Declaration of Independence and the program of the First Dail.
The next speaker was Jack O’Connor of SIPTU. He said that the aim of the rally was to object to the insistence of a government with no mandate “to draw up a plan and sign an agreement in our name which will decide the future of one or two generations of our people”. He said that people had turned out to assert their rights as citizens to decide the future of their country. He noted reports that the IMF was on a rescue mission to Ireland, but according to him it was not a rescue mission for the Irish people but for those at the top of the banks in France and Germany. O'Connor said that it appeared the government did not intend to go away and they had brought in an old-fashioned, right-wing, four-year plan devoid of imagination. He noted that it contained no mention of the contribution wealthy tax exiles could make. Instead, the government was trying to fix the problem by cutting the national minimum wage of the most vulnerable in the country.
After his lashing of the government, O’Connor concluded by saying that Ireland’s recovery from the financial crisis wouldn’t be easy, but the trade union movement would insist on a fairer plan. This was the typical bluster from O’Connor, but what was notable this time was the hostility towards him of a large section of the crowd. Throughout his speech O’Connor was heckled and booed. As he spoke of the politicians' failings, cries of "You've sold out" and "You're in bed with them" could be heard from angry protesters.
O’Connor was followed by Marie Doyle of the Retired Workers Committee. She said that many pensioners were living on the edge of poverty and were fearful of the extra taxes and charges that would be in December 7 budget. She said that pensioners resented being told they were a burden on the state; they had paid for their pension and were not parasites. Marie concluded by saying that the purse was empty, and that people couldn’t pay. She was followed by a young unemployed worker who spoke about the lack of job opportunities in Ireland and the pressure to emigrate.
Next up was Siobhán O’Donoghue of the Community Platform, who began her address by tearing up a copy of the government’s four-year plan. She said that the plan should be rejected and called for an immediate general election. She urged trade unions and community groups to stand together. Siobhán was followed by one of women involved in the Laura Ashley dispute.
After this Fintan O’Toole led the crowd in a one minute chant of “Out, Out, Out” directed at the government.
The final speaker was David Begg of ICTU. He said that the march sent a powerful message to Dail Eireann. He claimed that the IMF had come to Ireland bearing weapons of mass destruction. Begg said that the country could not afford to pay the terms of the proposed €85 billion EU-IMF bailout package. He said that the Irish people could not afford to pay 6.7 per cent on money that they not ask for in the first place and that was being forced upon them to bail out the banking system in Europe. Begg warned the government that they should not under any circumstances “accede to the terms of this Versailles Treaty".
On the end of the same type of heckling as O’Connor Begg noticeably cut his speech short. The rally ended with a couple of songs from Christy Moore, one of which ("An Ordinary Man") was dedicated to trucker Joe McNamara -- the man who drove a cement lorry up to the gates of Leinster House with the words "Anglo" and "toxic bank" on its side.
Overall, the rally was disappointing. It showed that the ICTU still retains the ability to mobilise tens of thousands of workers, and that despite the booing of Begg and O’Connor, most workers continue to adhere to the leadership line that there is a better fairer way. There was also a strong nationalistic tone to the proceedings, which ranged from Fintan O’Toole’s appeal to republican ideals to more chauvinistic sentiments that in a period of austerity could find an outlet in racism. Much of the patriotic posturing, particularly from trade union leaders, is also completely phoney. It is notable that most of their attacks were directed at the IMF rather then the EU, even though it is the junior partner in the rescue package. Despite the draconian terms being laid down by the EU, trade union leaders remains fully committed to the European project.
There was also an effort to promote a change of government and political reform has some sort of panacea to Ireland’s economic woes. This is mistaken; a change of government will not fundamentally alter the situation. All the main parties, as well as the trade unions, are committed to the program of austerity. The only questions they pose are over how the cuts should be implemented, or how the terms of the bailout can be made slightly less draconian. It doesn’t address the fundamental point that the Irish people cannot and should not pay the debts of the banks; there is no better fairer way. It is only from this position that a more favourable path for Irish workers out of this crisis can be charted. This is the position that socialist and trade union activists have to fight for.
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Resist IMF occupation! Build a workers resistance network!
[The following leaflet was distributed by Socialist Democracy at the trade union organised anti-austerity rally in Dublin on November 27, 2010.]
Within living memory of 1916 the partial political independence won by Ireland has shrunk to a shadow. We are again a colony, ruled by the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, with Britain throwing in a few billion to protect its interests.
The rump government will meet to plan savage cuts -- but the final package will be decided by our new masters.
The Dail will meet to discuss the measures. They will be wasting their breath. Soon we will be able to vote. Our votes will count for nothing. We will elect TDs to a new Dail. The Dail will remain under the control of the banks.
This new situation represents the purest form of class war, with the lifeblood being sucked from working people and transferred directly to the coffers of capitalism. Fianna Fail said they were saving Ireland as they struggled to save the banks and their cronies in the golden circle. Now the ECB say they are saving Ireland. The end result will be the salvation of the European banks, with almost a hundred billion of extra debt for ourselves and our children.
In the fight for political independence the Irish followed a simple formula: don't recognise the occupation, organise an alternative and build a resistance movement.
That's what we should do today. We must utterly repudiate this debt. It’s not ours and we won't pay a cent. NAMA and the dud banks should close down immediately and the bondholders get nothing. We must organize everywhere where the ECB and IMF try to take the money out of our hides -- occupy to stop closures and sackings, close down any quisling institutions, up to and including the Dail.
Our alternative is a workers' bank. Grab hold of the remaining assets of the speculators and build a bank based on the real economy, protecting jobs, small farms and businesses and people's homes. Right away this would be a beacon across Europe, where Greek and French worker have already shown their willingness to resist.
In 1916 Connolly warned us of the limits of capitalist "independence" and of the need for workers to fight for their own program. Today we need a new resistance movement. All the major parties, the trade union leadership in partnership with them, they all say we should pay the bankers bills. A network of workers resistance, organised in our own interests across the island, can give them the lie and defeat this new IMF occupation.
Repudiate the debt
Fight against the new occupation
Build a workers' resistance network
32 County Sovereignty Committee: `Time to act'
A statement by the 32 County Sovereignty Committee
After usurping the Declaration of Independence the architects of the Twenty Six County State invoked a sovereign legitimacy to use British guns on fellow Irish people. It continued to invoke this legitimacy to strap Irishmen to landmines, to execute Irish prisoners, to allow Irishmen die on hunger strike and to employ an English hangman to eradicate those who believed that Irish sovereignty does not stop at the border and that our national ethos should be modelled on the Proclamation.
Invoking a sovereign legitimacy it set about rewriting the terms of its own existence, not in accordance with those who defended it as a preamble to national reunification, but as a prologue for establishing a partitionist power base serving sectional interests. When it introduced its constitution in 1937 it predicated that document on a definition of sovereignty as one which encompassed the whole island and its peoples. It spent the next sixty one years failing to restore that sovereignty culminating in its abandonment in 1998. It abandoned their fellow Irish people in the Six Counties, standing idly by whilst a sectarian gerrymander was allowed to masquerade as democracy.
Invoking a sovereign legitimacy it raised an army and called it Oglaigh Na hEireann. It placed this army on the border to reinforce its view that the Twenty Six County State had a sovereign right to exist. It sent this army into the world as a symbol of its sovereignty and generously referenced their peace keeping efforts, and their deaths, as a glowing tribute to this sovereignty.
Invoking a sovereign legitimacy it raised its own tax and allowed its governments to utilise these funds for party political interests. It allowed its ministers to feather their own nests and encouraged a political ethos which was solely concerned with satisfying the local constituency. In pursuit of power it placed the Catholic Church and financial speculators at the heart of its policy making with disastrous consequences. Those that opposed such economics were adjured to commit suicide and those who argued for complete church-state separation were marginalised and stigmatised.
And now it stares into the abyss created by its own abject failure to understand what Irish sovereignty actually represents. It has now surrendered the fate of its citizens to an institution whose sole concern is the making of money no matter the social cost. As a state it can neither look back nor look forward to redeem itself. Only its citizens retain the ability to rise above the penury the state has forced them into.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement calls on all the Irish people to take back their sovereignty. We call on all republican organisations and the labour movement to unite and organise the shutting down of the state. This is not a time for righteous rhetoric or for tinkering with the status quo. It is a time to reach out and effect fundamental change for our people. Partition has failed on both sides of the border. The restoration of our national sovereignty is an essential prerequisite to achieving this change. It is time to act.
éirígí: Join the fightback!
November 27, 2010 -- http://www.eirigi.org/ -- For close to four years now the population of the Twenty Six Counties have been drip-fed a seemingly endless stream of ever-worsening news stories about the state of the economy. And with each new revelation has come the bleating of a Dublin government minister attempting to portray disaster as normality.
Back in 2006 as the property bubble began to burst the Dublin government and the self-promoted economic experts confidently predicted a "soft landing" for property prices. In 2008 when the Dublin government decided to issue a blank cheque to the entire private banking sector they assured people that the "fundamentals" of the banks were sound; that it was merely an issue of "liquidity" that would soon pass.
And now in 2010, with the IMF and the EU effectively in control of the state the same halfwits are telling the population that they are working with their "partners" in the IMF and Europe. Pinocchio himself would have been embarrassed by the scale of the lies emanating from the Dublin government in recent weeks. Those with even the most basic knowledge of the IMF know that they are much a "partner" of the Irish people as the wolf is the "partner" of the sheep.
It is now time for straight talking and truth. The facts may be unpalatable, but they are facts nevertheless. The Twenty Six County economy has failed. The Twenty Six County state is bankrupt. All of the political parties in Leinster House failed to spot the economic crisis coming and failed to provide leadership or solutions once it had arrived. And now the sovereignty of that state, as limited as it was, has been surrendered to the arch vultures of capitalism in the IMF and the EU. In the Six Counties the Stormont Assembly has failed miserably to protect public services from Tory cutbacks. And across Ireland the leadership of the trade union movement has failed to protect workers jobs, wages and terms of employment.
In the face of these many failures the people have but one choice -- to stand up and fight back and to replace the failures of the past with the successes of the future. All is far from lost. The people of Ireland are sovereign, something that the political establishment, the IMF and the EU would do well to remember.
Many commentators in Ireland and beyond have asked why the Irish people have not taken to the streets. They have surmised that the Irish are not like the French or the Greeks; that the Irish will just accept whatever is thrown at them. But those commentators would do well to study the history of Ireland a little more closely. For eight centuries the history of Ireland has been defined by resistance and rebellion. And for more than two centuries that resistance has been intertwined with the cause of revolutionary Irish republicanism. The people of Ireland have proven themselves to be well capable of organising effective resistance when they are left no other choice. And this generation will be no different.
Brian Cowen, Olli Rehn, Ajai Chopra and company would do well to remember the history of Ireland as they conspire to destroy its future. They may think that the people of Ireland are beaten but the resistance to their neoliberal agenda is growing. All across Ireland the people are beginning to stir. Ever greater numbers of people are coming to realise that what is needed is not a change of government but a change of system. Over the coming weeks there will be many opportunities for people to publicly demonstrate their opposition to the austerity measures of the Dublin government and the IMF/EU. Below are the details of just two such protests.
On November 30, exactly one week before the 2011 Blood Budget is due to be announced, éirígí is organising a protest outside of the Department of Finance on Upper Merrion Street in Dublin. The protest will give people an opportunity to publicly register their opposition to the cutback agenda of the Dublin government, the IMF and the EU in advance of the budget. The protest will begin at 6.30 pm and last till
8 pm. All are welcome. Bigi linn.
On December 7, on the night of the 2011 Blood Budget, éirígí will be joining with its partner organisations in the 1% Network to protest at the gates of Leinster House. The assembly point for this protest is the Wolfe Tone Monument on Stephen's Green where people will gather at 5.30 pm before marching to Leinster House. All are welcome. Bigi linn.
Socialist Party: `One demo is not enough'
Start a campaign of industrial action with a one day general strike before the budget
November 28, 2010 -- Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) -- Another €15 billion in cuts and tax increases will just make this disaster even worse. The ICTU says the “National Recovery Programme” will cause another 90,000 job losses. A deflationary program of nearly €30 billion cuts/tax hikes over six years will guarantee mass unemployment and mass emigration for years to come.
Capitalism has failed – Austerity will fail!
The IMF and the EU are here to help their friends in the current government (and the next) impose a cruel austerity program to bail out not just the Irish banks but also the German banks, the British banks and all of the other billionaire bondholders.
The “markets” have targeted Ireland’s economy, pushing interest rates up higher and higher to levels they knew could not be paid in order to force the country into accepting a bailout. Democracy in Ireland and across the EU is exposed as a sham by these events.
€85 billion more in loans imposed onto the backs of ordinary people just so the billionaire bondholders are guaranteed to get paid. The national debt is set to reach €200 billion. This debt will be an albatross around the neck of generations to come.
The Irish working class are being sacrificed to save the euro and the failed market system and now these vultures are moving on to Portugal.
No future for youth
There is nothing to create a future for young people in this “plan”. A €40 a week cut in the minimum wage, student fees up 33%, no job creation, 25,000 less jobs in the public sector. Even if you do get a job in the public service the starting pay is now 25% less than two years ago – €21,000 a year for a clerical officer – a poverty wage!
Rich protected – no justice
A collective sigh of relief was heard from the super-rich. While the poorest in society and the low paid are savagely attacked they got off scot-free. The multinationals and their billion euro profits will not be touched as corporation tax remains at 12.5%. Yet the lowest paid are too pay more tax AND have their pay cut by a whopping 11.5%. There is no justice in this society!
Who can defeat the markets?
Not Labour. The Labour Party have said they will not reverse the €6 billion cuts and new taxes due in the Budget. Labour and Fine Gael have told the IMF/EU-crats that they are committed to implementing austerity to meet the 3% GDP/debt ratio target by 2014.
However the “markets” and their henchmen in the IMF/EU, willingly assisted by Fianna Fail and the soon to be government of Labour and Fine Gael can be defeated.
People power – For a one day general strike
The people of this country have the collective ability to stand up to and stop the austerity attacks. The trade unions are potentially the most powerful social force in this society. Today’s demonstration is just a climpse of what can be achieved. But one demonstration is not enough. The most powerful weapon the working class have is the ability to withdraw their labour – to strike.
This is an unprecedented crisis and the people need to take radical action to protect their living standards, their public services and their children’s future
The ICTU should name the date for a one day general strike as the first step in a determined campaign of national strikes and mass demonstrations with the goal of bringing down the government and stopping the four year austerity plan.
A mass movement of working-class people could get rid of this lame duck government and send a powerful message to Labour and Fine Gael that another version of the same austerity plan will not be tolerated.
Yes there is another better way to end the economic crisis. A way that can actually work. Run the economy so the needs of the working class and middle class people first and so the vast wealth in this society is used for the benefit of the majority, replacing the failed market system. That better way is called socialism. Read our 10-point socialist program here.
Join the fight back – Join the Socialist Party
Get in contact with us today to find out more about the socialist alternative to the failed capitalist system and how you can join in the fight back.
The Socialist Party calls for:
- A one day general strike as the start of a campaign of escalating industrial action to defeat the austerity plan.
- Don’t pay the debts of the Celtic Tiger profiteers; don’t pay the bondholders.
- Tax the super rich and big business, for an emergency programme of socially useful public works that could provide hundreds of thousands of jobs.
- For the nationalisation of the banks under the democratic control and management of working people, and the introduction of capital controls to prevent a flight of capital.
- No reliance on investment from the markets to revive the economy. Immediately take the key wealth and resources into democratic public ownership.
- For the launching of a new mass party for the working class and a genuine left/workers government, committed to socialist policies.
A message from Joe Higgins MEP, Socialist Party
“The government’s four-year plan is an open declaration of war on working people, the unemployed and youth they are being asked to pay for this crisis.
"Through regressive tax increases like the home tax, water charges and VAT hikes, cuts in pay, the minimum wage, pensions as well as slashing public sector employment the life will be kicked out of the economy.
"Today’s national protest must be the opening salvo of a sustained fight back. The day for a one day general strike must be named and further escalations thereafter until this government are forced out of office and the IMF/EU backed austerity programme is defeated.”