Thursday, October 23, 2008


The Irish Parliament, Dáil Éireann, was under siege yesterday as thousands took to the streets of Dublin to protest against the Fianna Fáil /Green Party government’s scrooge budget which attempted to deprive the over 70’s of their up ‘til now free medical services card. Over 20,000 people jammed the streets in front of Leinster House to register their anger at the Government’s decision.

(Photo: Massive protest outside Leinster House, 22.10.08)

Despite a last-minute political climb-down on Tuesday night, to mollify back-bench rebels in the Fianna Fáil party, the angry crowd was in no mood for concessions and there were repeated demands from representatives of various organisations connected with the elderly that the status quo be maintained and no means test or income limits be applied. This uncompromising and militant stand by the pensioners shocked Government TD’s who thought they had defused the situation with their sleazy attempt to deceive the public that the majority of pensioners would retain their entitlements under the proposed revision of the scheme. Yet people have seen through this manoeuvre as a deliberate attempt to undermine the principle of universality of the existing scheme which would allow the Government to chip away at these entitlements over a period of years and Ireland’s pensioners were having none of it.

When, belatedly, Minister of State, Máire Hoctor, (FF, Meath) came out of the Parliament and tried to address the crowd she was greeted with derision by the vast assembly, called a liar and eventually was expelled from the platform. These scenes in Dublin yesterday were extremely shocking and unnerving for the long-time populist Fianna Fáil Party which has been in government in this Republic for more years than any other political party in the state, especially since many of the attendance declared themselves to be Fianna Fáil voters but vowed never to vote for the Party again whatever the outcome of the current issue. With local government and European elections due in Meitheamh/June 2009, party representatives are stunned by the political earthquake which has suddenly hit them due to the stupidity and arrogance of their own Government. It is also quite clear that the current regime has not a snowball’s chance in Hell of carrying a second referendum on the despised Lisbon Treaty, such is the mood for vengeance of the general population, not just the pensioners.

In scenes reminiscent of the fall of governments in Eastern Europe in 1989/90, no sooner had the pensioners finished their protest than 15,000 students from Universities and Colleges all over the country arrived at the gates to deliver their protest to government about the sneaking rise in so-called “registration” fees for University and College entrants proposed to be increased to €1500 next year. The students had marched through the streets of the capital which, along with the pensioners protest, had brought normal commercial activity in the City to a halt for most of the day. And it isn’t ended yet, next week the Teachers Unions will be outside the Dáil as a debate begins on a Labour Party motion rejecting the Government’s proposal to renege on its many electoral promises to reduce class sizes in public schools throughout the Republic. Tonight, in Clár Clainne Mhuiris/Claremorris, Co Mayo, the Farmers organisations are to begin a series of protest demonstrations on agricultural issues in the Budget which will culminate again in a mass demonstration outside Leinster House.

The Green Party section of the Government will now be under severe pressure over the next two weeks ahead of the introduction of the Social Welfare Bill whence the budget proposals will be legislated. Having promised to listen to the voice of the people they will have to decide whether to keep their word or hang on to office as a discredited and failed political entity. the Opposition, Labour, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein will give no quarter.

FearFeasa Mac Léinn

Áth Cliath/DUBLIN, 23 Deire Fomhair/October 2008.

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