2008–14 Irish protests

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2008–14 Irish protests
Part of the Eurozone crisis
Date 22 October 2008 (2008-10-22)present
(5 years, 315 days)
Location Republic of Ireland
Causes Unemployment, inflation, corruption, 2008–14 Irish financial crisis, 2008–14 Irish banking crisis, International Monetary Fund presence in the country, harsh austerity measures with welfare cuts, bipartidism, particracy, democracy deficit
Methods Demonstrations, strike action, sit-ins, occupations, civil disobedience, police violence, Internet activism
Status Continuing

The 2008–14 Irish protests are a continuing series of demonstrations, occupations, strikes and sit-ins taking place across Ireland. The protests were sparked by the continuing financial crisis, and given further impetus by the late 2010 intervention of the European Union/European Central Bank/International Monetary Fund troika.

Background[edit]

2008[edit]

The Irish government officially declared it was in a recession in September 2008. Before this declaration, the government announced, on 3 September 2008, that it would bring forward the 2009 government budget from its usual December date to 14 October 2008.[1] In a statement, the government claimed that this was largely due to a decrease in the global economy.[2] The budget, labelled "the toughest in many years",[3] included a number of controversial measures such as a proposed income levy which was eventually restructured,[4] and the withdrawal of previously promised HPV vaccines for schoolgirls.[5][6][7][8][9] Other results of the budget included a new income levy being imposed on all workers above a specified threshold and the closure of a number of military barracks near the border with Northern Ireland.[10][11][12][13][14]

An unexpected public outcry was invoked over the proposed withdrawal of medical cards and the threatened return of university fees. A series of demonstrations ensued amongst teachers and farmers,[15][16][17][18][19][20] whilst on 22 October 2008, at least 25,000 pensioners and students descended in solidarity on the Irish parliament at Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin.[21] Some of the pensioners cheered on the students as the protests passed each other on the streets of Dublin.[22][23] Changes to education led to a ministerial meeting with three Church of Ireland bishops[24] who were assured by O'Keeffe that religious instruction would be unaffected by the budget changes.[25]

Rebellion within the ranks of the ruling coalition government led to a number of defections of disenchanted coalition members. County Wicklow TD Joe Behan resigned from the Fianna Fáil party in protests at the proposed medical card changes after suggesting that past taoisigh Éamon de Valera and Seán Lemass "would be turning in their graves at the decisions made in the past week".[26] Independent Deputy Finian McGrath then threatened to withdraw his support for the government unless the plan to remove the over-70s automatic right to a medical card was withdrawn completely.[27] Taoiseach Brian Cowen postponed a planned trip to China, sending Minister for Education and Science Batt O'Keeffe ahead to lead the delegation.[28] Behan, alongside McGrath and former government minister Jim McDaid,[29][30][31][32] later voted against his former colleagues in two crucial Dáil votes on medical cards and cancer vaccines. These defections reduced the Irish government's majority of twelve by one quarter.

2009[edit]

On 30 January 2009, the jobs of Waterford Crystal employees such as this glass blower were placed under threat.

On 5 January 2009, Waterford Wedgwood entered receivership.[33] On 30 January, workers at the Waterford Crystal plant in Kilbarry were told they would be losing their jobs. A statement issued by the receiver, Deloitte's David Carson, confirmed that, of the 670 employees, 480 of them would be laid off.[34] The workers responded angrily to this unexpected decision and at least 100 of them began a sit-in in the visitors' gallery at the factory that night.[34] They insisted they would refuse to leave until they had met with Carson.[34] Following the revelations, there was a minor scuffle during which the main door to the visitors' centre was damaged.[34] Local Sinn Féin Councillor Joe Kelly was amongst those who occupied the visitors' gallery.[34] A meeting held the following day did little to resolve the conflict,[35] with the sit-in continuing for almost two months until 22 March.[36]

On 18 February 2009, 13,000 civil servants voted for industrial action over a proposed pension levy.[37] They effected this action on 26 February.[38]

Days earlier, as many as 120,000 people, had protested on the streets of Dublin on 21 February.[39][40] This was followed by a further march through the capital by gardaí on 25 February[41] and a lunch-time protest by 10,000 civil servants on 19 March 2009.[42] This was followed by two separate taxi drivers' protests in Dublin on 20 March 2009.[43]

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, then in opposition but later Tánaiste and Foreign Minister following the 2011 general election, said at the time that he thought a national strike would serve the country no good.[44]

2010[edit]

Further information: 2010 student protest in Dublin

A student demonstration took place in Dublin on 3 November 2010 in opposition to a proposed increase in university registration fees, further cuts to the student maintenance grant and increasing graduate unemployment and emigration levels caused by the Fianna Fáil led 28th Government of Ireland.[45] Organized by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and students unions nationwide, it saw between 25,000 and 40,000 protesters on the streets of central Dublin during what The Irish Times described as "the largest student protest for a generation".[46] There were some clashes between protesters and police after Several dozen protestors entered the Department of Finance's lobby and commenced occupation.

Complaints of police brutality led to another protest on 10 November in Dublin against the behaviour of the Garda Síochána.[47]

The March for a Better Way on 27 November organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions was one of the largest protests ever to take place in the country, with organisers estimating around 100,000 in attendance.[48]

A small-scale protest took part outside Leinster House on Kildare Street on the day the Fianna Fáil-led Government announced the budget for the upcoming year. One man was arrested after parking a cherry picker at the front gates of Leinster House.[49][50]

2011[edit]

For the early part of 2011 no major protests took place due to the onset of the Irish general election, which saw the formation of a Fine Gael and Labour Party coalition government.

In May a number of demonstrations took place mainly in Dublin; these coincided with the state visits of Queen Elizabeth II and President of the United States Barack Obama.[51][52][53]

Occupy movement[edit]

Occupy Dame Street protesting outside Dáil Éireann on Budget Day, 6 December 2011
Further information: Occupy Dame Street and Occupy Cork

In October 2011 Occupy camps were established in Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Galway as well as a camp in Belfast in Northern Ireland. A number of protests organised by the Occupy movement attracted over 2,000 in Dublin and 400 in Cork. There were two separate demonstrations in Dublin on 15 October.[54][55]

Student actions[edit]

As the year went on students became increasingly concerned about the honesty and integrity of the pledge signed by Ruairi Quinn before the election that the Labour Party would oppose increased tuition fees.[56]

On 16 November 2011, thousands of students, their parents and families, descended on Dublin from around the country and marched on Government Buildings amid concerns about the reintroduction of third-level fees.[57][58] A small group also engaged in a sit-down protest outside the Fine Gael office on Dublin's Upper Mount Street.[59]

At around 4 pm on 29 November 2011, three student union presidents (of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, University College Cork and IT Carlow) under the leadership of Union of Students in Ireland (USI) President Gary Redmond occupied a room at Department of Social Protection on Dublin's Store Street as part of a continued effort to have the Labour Party clarify its position on tuition fees. Police broke down the door of the room in which they were stationed and led them away.[56][60] The students came armed with a chemical toilet and supplies of food that could have lasted them weeks.[61][62] Ten student union presidents also attempted to occupy a room at the Department of Enterprise on Kildare Street for the same reasons.[60]

Nine FEE students, also seeking clarification on the government's view on third-level fees, participated in a peaceful sit-down protest by occupying the constituency office of Fine Gael TD and former mayor Brian Walsh in Bohermore, Galway, around midday on 30 November 2011.[63][64][65][66] They unfurled a banner on the roof with the message, "FREE EDUCATION NOTHING LESS". They were imprisoned by the police and released a short time later.[67]

On 2 December 2011, eight students from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM), including the university's student union president Rob Munnelly, began occupying the Naas constituency office of Fine Gael TD Anthony Lawlor.[68] They did so with sleeping bags, clothes, a chemical toilet and a week's supply of food and were supported by other students on Facebook and Twitter.[69][70] During the occupation Munnelly debated with Lawlor live on Kildare TV, USI President Gary Redmond visited the revolting students and a banner with the slogan "SAVE THE GRANT" was erected at Lawlor's entrance.[71][72]

2012[edit]

A rally organised by the 'Campaign against the Household and Water Taxes' filled the 2,000 capacity National Stadium in Dublin with thousands more having to stand in the surrounding streets. 'Campaign against the Household and Water Taxes' also staged a minor protest in Dublin in July 2012[73] while 500 protesters against proposed Septic Tank charges had a demonstration outside Leinster House.[74]

Fine Gael Ardfheis / Labour Party Conference[edit]

The first large scale protest in 2012 took place at the Ardfheis of Fine Gael on 30 March in Dublin, organisers estimated around 10,000 in attendance.[75] A second demonstration took place at the Party conference of the Labour Party at the Bailey Allen Hall at NUI Galway on 14 April in Galway with around 4,000 in attendance, a number of protesters broke past police barriers leading to scuffles between protesters and police, police used pepper spray to hold back demonstrators.[76][77][78][79] MEP Emer Costello described protesters as "Bully boys" and said "None of those people (referring to protesters) are actually Democrats".[80]

Occupy movement[edit]

The Occupy Dame Street camp in Dublin.

Occupy camps continued into 2012. Occupy Cork occupied the NAMA owned Stapleton House on Oliver Plunkett Street[81] Authorities requested the protesters to postpone the Occupy Dame Street camp for the Saint Patrick's Day Parade on 17 March. Occupy Dame Street's camp was dismantled by Gardaí in the early hours of 8 March during which time some 15 protesters affiliated with the group were present.[82] Protesters announced a demonstration at the Central Bank for later that day and vowed that the destruction of their camp does not mean their quest for justice is over.[83] on the evening of 8 March over 70 people took part in a spontaneous march from Dame Street to a nearby Garda station on Pearse Street in protest of the removal of the camp.[82] By June 2012 all camps in the Republic of Ireland had been dismantled. Occupy Belfast relocated their camp to a disused bank. 7 Members of Occupy Dame Street staged a demonstration in a Bank of Ireland branch in Dublin on 23 July, forcing it to temporarily close.[84]

Budget protests[edit]

In the run up to the government budget a number of protests were organised across the country.

On 9 October, around 20,000 farmers marched in Dublin over concerns about future funding.[85]

On 10 November, thousands of people marched against, amongst other issues, threats to their hospital in Waterford, the largest such event in the city for decades.[86][87] Gillian Savage Corcoran and Andrea Galgey, who described themselves as "just concerned citizens", initiated the rally.[88]

On 24 November 2012, thousands of people marched against austerity in Dublin, amid calls for a general strike to shut the country down.[89] (Photos of protest.)

On 8 December 2012, TD Thomas Pringle addressed crowds of protesters against the property tax at a post-budget rally in Letterkenny.[90][91]

Student demonstrations[edit]

On 5 November, students marched in Cork.[92]

On 14 November, students marched in Galway and carried a coffin to the constituency office of Labour TD Derek Nolan.[93]

The same day, USI President John Logue was arrested and charged with a "breach of the peace" in Dáil Éireann. Donegal South West TD Pearse Doherty demanded his immediate release.[94]

Logue's Letterkenny counterparts marched on 28 November, along the way distributing 1,000 letters of protest to the offices of their local government (Fine Gael) TD Joe McHugh.[95]

Targeting of government officials[edit]

Varadkar buffet

While attending a buffet at a Letterkenny hotel on 24 February 2012, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar was heckled and booed by local residents who repeatedly shouted "Shame on you" at him.[96][97]

Bunbeg downgraded

On 25 February 2012, demonstrators protesting against the downgrading of schools in Bunbeg, County Donegal, marched on the office of their local TD, Fine Gael Junior Minister Dinny McGinley.[98] There were also protests in County Mayo on the same day.[99]

Golden Island Shopping Centre incident

On 14 May 2012, while visiting Athlone's Golden Island Shopping Centre, a man told Taoiseach Enda Kenny his story of how, "Back in 1958 I was forced out of this country. You are now forcing my children and my grandchildren out of this country." On the same day in the same place Kenny told a man who had been self-employed for 29 years: "You could do with a day's work, I'd say".[100][101]

Ballyfermot incident

On 5 October in the Dublin working-class suburb Ballyfermot, the car of Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore was involved in an altercation with a small number of protesters; one man was arrested.[102]

Sit-ins and strikes[edit]

Further information: Vita Cortex sit-in

A number of sit-ins took place in workplaces or former workplaces over issues such as layoffs.

The Vita Cortex sit-in which began in late 2011 ended in May 2012 after 161 days, it received support from notable people such as Mary Robinson, Noam Chomsky and Sir Alex Ferguson. On 27 March, 2,104 jobs were lost as video games retail company Game closed 277 stores.[103] Staff began a sit-in.[104] La Senza workers also staged a successful sit in during January 2012.[105] Target Express workers staged a sit-in in reaction to job losses.[106] A brief sit-in also took place at Galway Airport in February.

In June 2012, 1,000 Bord na Móna workers in the Midlands Region went on strike for 24 hours.[107]

In December 2012, Mattie McGrath took part in a sit-in at the offices of Friends First in support of a farmer being pursued by the financial institution.[108][109] TDs Michael McCarthy (Labour), Tom Hayes and Patrick O'Donovan (both of Fine Gael) and Michael Moynihan and Dara Calleary (both of Fianna Fáil), while seated in the Dáil bar, made a hoax call to McGrath pretending they were Pizza Hut, offering free pizza to those partaking in the sit-in.[110]

2013[edit]

Music retailer HMV went bust in early January, and thousands of people lost their jobs.[111] A Dublin grandfather took on HMV's administrators, strolling out of the Henry Street branch with three computer games when staff refused to accept a €40 HMV gift voucher he bought his grandson for Christmas. Eric Nolan said, "We are a nation of sheep – but I was determined to win this."[112]

In late January, the Ballyhea protesters who have been going since 2011, achieved their 100th protest.[113]

On 28 January 2013, protesters against the household tax occupied the public gallery and Cork City Council abandoned a meeting. A similar protest had occurred the previous October but that meeting resumed after Gardaí were deployed to remove the protesters.[114][115][116][117]

On 9 February 2013, more than 110,000 people marched against the bank debt burden in nationwide demonstrations in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Sligo.[118] Then on 11 February 2013, protesters against the household tax demonstrated at meetings of South Dublin County Council in Tallaght and Fingal County Council in Swords.[119]

On 4 March 2013, the car of Taoiseach Enda Kenny received some heckling from demonstrators against austerity as he departed the Letterkenny Institute of Technology campus following a meeting of the British–Irish Parliamentary Assembly. Fine Gael TDs Dinny McGinley (DS-W) and Joe McHugh (DN-E) also received some heckling.[120]

On 27 March 2013, a delegation from Ballyhea met Sharon Bowles, Chair of European Parliament Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, in Brussels.[121]

On 13 April 2013, amid pouring rain, thousands of people marched down O'Connell Street in Dublin to Dublin Castle where EU leaders were meeting during Ireland's EU presidency.[122] Banners indicated people had come from across the country, from all four provinces, including from counties Carlow, Cork, Wicklow, Wexford, Limerick, Meath, Dún Laoghaire, Finglas, Galway and Longford, to register their protest against home and water taxes while, in the week of Margaret Thatcher's death, posters exclaimed "Bury this Thatcherite tax" and others called for a general strike. Anti-austerity politicians, including TDs Richard Boyd Barrett, Joe Higgins and Joan Collins, addressed the crowd.[123] RTÉ's coverage of events was roundly criticised by commentators.[124]

On 1 May, gardaí arrested five members of the Campaign Against Home and Water Taxes, including Cork City Councillors Ted Tynan and Mick Barry, during a midday protest inside the Patrick Street branch of the Bank of Ireland in the city. People gathered on the street. Cllr Tynan said he felt a need to stand up against austerity.[125]

2014[edit]

In March 2014, people protested against austerity at an awards ceremony honouring President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso in Cork.[126] Also that month the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) rejected seven complaints against RTÉ's Six One News focusing on news anchor Bryan Dobson's on-air insult of people demonstrating against austerity as "idiots".[127]

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