Anger at the Irish government’s response to the recession has exploded into angry and growing protests. Over 120,000 joined a protest in Dublin in late February, and unionists are campaigning for a public sector-wide strike.
Recession has already hit the country hard, with the economy expected to shrink by 6.5 per cent this year. The government has launched a program of cutbacks in response to its growing budget deficit.
Education spending has been cut and the government is imposing a “pension levy”—in effect a pay cut—for public sector workers. But at the same time billions are being spent to bail out failed banks. The government has nationalised the Anglo Irish bank and provided $15 billion in cash injections into AIB and Bank of Ireland.
The original focus of February’s monster protest was the government’s attack on public sector workers. But the protest quickly became a national expression of anger against the government and the banks.
Placards read “Down with cosy cartels”, “Ireland Inc is bankrupt and corrupt” and “Why no pay cuts for corporate swindlers?”
Over 300 workers from the occupation at Waterford Crystal led the march alongside sacked workers from SR Technics, an aviation technology firm at Dublin airport.
Many joining the demonstration spoke of what the recession and the government attacks mean for them. “This isn’t a pension levy—it’s a pay cut,” explained Dennis Walsh, a civil service clerical officer. “I will lose a significant portion of my salary into the dark hole of a banker’s pocket.”
There is growing momentum for a one-day general strike. The public servants’ union has already held a one-day strike of its members. The ICTU—the equivalent of the ACTU—has issued a directive to all public sector unions to start balloting for industrial action to take place on March 30.
If the unions escalate their protests against the government, it could become the second in Europe, following Iceland’s government, to be driven from power by mass protests over the economic crisis.
Reports from Socialist Worker UK

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