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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/2009-02-23_I...

by Bernard Duraud

Massive demonstration in Dublin

Translated Thursday 5 March 2009, by Sarah Wood

Massive demonstration in Dublin

Ireland. More than 100,000 people filled the streets of the capital to protest against the planned cutbacks announced by the Government.

Massive demonstration in Dublin on Saturday: over 100,000 people from all over the country marched through the centre of the Irish capital to protest against the austerity measures introduced by the Irish Government in the midst of the economic turmoil. Firefighters and workers from Waterford Crystal took to the head of the immense procession, in which teachers, police officers, civil servants, and private sector workers, found themselves side by side.

The scale of the movement was such that David Begg, General Secretary of the ICTU (Irish Congress of Trade Unions), which represents several trade unions, declared that it was “the first step in a rolling campaign of action”. The ICTU, who organised the march, has already planned rallies and strikes for the coming weeks. Thus the so far well-established model of “social partnership” between the state and its “social partners” is being shattered.

The anger of the Irish people is specifically directed at the drastic plan, which they’ll be forced to put up with, even though the Government has injected massive amounts of money to come to the aid of banks on the brink of collapse. The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen’s Government, which is forecasting a saving of 1.4 billion euros this year, decided on a new social levy on public sector workers in order to finance pensions, and a freeze on their wages. For them this translates to an immediate 7% reduction in wages.

The Prime Minister has maintained that these “difficult and, in some cases, painful” measures are necessary and "fair” in order to avoid a shortfall in the state’s budget, and to stop Ireland from losing its credibility in the international financial markets. The Irish economy, according to him, could shrink by around 10% between 2008 and 2010, leading to budget cuts totalling 15 billion euros. Meanwhile, the huge sums poured into the banks continue to cause outrage. The Anglo Irish Bank, nationalised last month, lost 300 million euros in loans to unscrupulous borrowers. The former chairman of the Anglo Irish Bank, Sean Fitzpatrick, ousted last year, also benefited from 87 million euros’ worth of personal loans.

The ICTU is today criticising the Government’s decisions for their "lack of fairness and their focus on stabilising the economy at the expense of economic renewal and job protection”. The recession hitting Ireland is all the more vicious because the “Celtic tiger” is emerging from almost twenty years of economic euphoria. Growth is falling, and jobs are becoming scarce.
In January, just after the Anglo-Irish china producer Waterford Wedgwood (which owns Crystal) was placed in administration, the American computer manufacturer Dell announced its factory in Limerick would be relocated to Poland. The unemployment rate, which was at 4.5% in 2007, has continued to rise In Ireland during the month of January, climbing to 9.2%, its highest peak since January 1998. The number of people registered as unemployed rose to 326,100 last month, a record high not reached since 1967.

The Irish people must, in theory, between now and October, vote again on the Lisbon Treaty. This would be in the midst of the austerity regime. It is not certain that the Government, despite polls showing a slight favouring towards ratification, would be keen to organise this referendum, which could prove to be an expression of general discontent.

1. Since quotations were made in English I have not translated these and have referred to the original quotes instead.

2. In the original article the Anglo-Irish Bank is referred to as AIB. As far as I am aware AIB is the Allied Irish Bank and is a separate institution from the Anglo-Irish. Both have required help during the financial crisis so some confusion may have occurred. I have therefore omitted any reference to AIB in the translated version, since Sean Fitzpatrick was indeed chairman of the Anglo-Irish Bank.

Many thanks.

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