Alea iacta est (have we crossed the Rubicon)?
|Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons|
The Republic of Ireland came into being on 18 April, 1949. In our 65 year history, not only have large-scale protests rarely occurred with any frequency (compared to other EU countries such as Greece, France, Spain) but we have been renown for not taking to the streets.
But that has changed. The people, or at least, great numbers of the people are now taking to the streets. Upwards of 70,000 people marched in Dublin on 11 October of this year to protest water charges (as usual there is some disparity between the diverse groups counting attendees).
Three weeks later, on 1 November, over 100,000 marched all over Ireland to protest same.
The Irish government was watching and listening and in an attempt to address public anger changed its water charges policy. But Pandora's box had opened, vast swathes of the citizenry are still very angry and the momentum built with high public attendance of protest marches continues to grow.
3 November: David O'Donoghue writes in the Independent.ie that "The moment we can take the grassroots fist of popular protest and draw some blood from the establishment, we won’t stop swinging." His words have proved eerily prescient.
5 November: Three people are arrested for obstructing the Taoiseach's (Prime Minister's) car and are brought to Coolock Garda Station, where 200 people show up to protest their arrest/treatment. Allegations of police brutality are made regarding the Taoiseach's visit to Santry.
13 November: the Taoiseach's (Prime Minister's) car was chased down O'Connell St while people shouted obscenities.
15 November: the Tánaiste (2nd in command) , Joan Bruton, was hit in the head with a water balloon after attending a graduation ceremony at An Cosán in Jobstown after which protesters surrounded her car, preventing it from moving for over two hours. Two gardaí were injured.
16 November: The Taoiseach again runs a gauntlet of protesters while leaving an event at the Mansion House. A video surfaces showing Gardaí forcibly removing a protester from the front of Enda Kenny's car.
17 November: while being interviewed on an RTÉ1 radio programme, TD Aodhán O'Ríordáin mentions a bomb threat has been made to the constituency office of Minister of Environment, Alan Kelly and that his own office has received a 'bullet threat'. Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, has to employ evasive tactics to avoid protesters in Limerick.
Enda Kenny has said these protests aren't about water charges, and he's right. The implementation of water meters was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. Water charges have become the lightening rod around which people are challenging the current government's legitimacy to govern. And now that (some) of the people have gotten a taste of what its like to take back power, I wonder what will it take to placate them?
A very good historical perspective (albeit not a completely unbiased one) on protest in Ireland can be found here.