DUBLIN — After a week that brought Ireland a pledge of a $114 billion international rescue package and the toughest austerity program of any country in Europe, thousands of demonstrators took to Dublin’s streets on Saturday to protest wide cuts in the country’s welfare programs and in public-sector jobs.
The protests centered on a milelong march along the banks of the River Liffey in central Dublin to the General Post Office building on O’Connell Street, site of the battle between Irish republican rebels and British troops in the Easter Uprising in 1916 — an iconic event that many in Ireland regard as the tipping point in Ireland’s long struggle for independence.
The choice of venue for the protests by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, coordinating the march through the city, reflected the mood of anger, dismay and recrimination in the wake of the economic shocks of the past 10 days. Those shocks have been the culmination of two years in which the Irish economy has shrunk by about 15 percent, faster than any other European economy.
Before that, Ireland enjoyed more than a decade of unprecedented prosperity, so the rescue package being worked out by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union and the austerity program the Dublin government has been forced to adopt to secure the bailout loans have come as a deep jolt.
Among other things, the austerity package will involve the loss of about 25,000 public-sector jobs, equivalent to 10 percent of the government work force, as well as a four-year, $20 billion program of tax increases and spending cuts like sharp reductions in state pensions and the minimum wage. One Dublin newspaper, the Irish Independent, estimated that the cost of the measures for a typical middle-class family earning $67,000 a year would be about $5,800 a year.
Corporate shill John Burns in the NY Times writes that the protest was smaller than expected, so therefore not all that successful.
But for the people who are getting screwed by this deal so that the banksters can be bailed out and the corporate scum like Bill Gates and Microsoft can keep their 12.5% tax rate, it was very important to have their voices heard:
Organizers had called for a “family friendly” demonstration, and that appeared to be what they got. With a police helicopter hovering overhead, speeches at the post office building drew cheers and shouts of support, and the detonation of some fireworks, but there were no reports of arrests. Protesters waved banners that depicted the austerity measures as an attack on the country’s poor, and told reporters that they feared for their futures, and the country’s.
“Everything’s collapsing,” one woman said.
“We can’t afford it,” a father with a young child said of the spending cuts. “I don’t know how we’re ever going to come out of it.”
The anger of many speakers, and among the protesters, appeared to fall about equally on the Cowen government and on the international financial institutions working out the details of the rescue package. Officials in Brussels, where European finance ministers were meeting on Saturday to discuss the package, said it could be confirmed with an announcement on Sunday.
One of the O’Connell Street speakers, typical of others, urged the country “not to allow a government with no mandate, bowing to people in Europe who are not elected, to determine our future.”
Horrific, just horrific.
That the criminals who created this mess have gotten away largely unscathed makes me angry beyond belief.
The same goes for here in the U.S.
I have said it before, I will say it again: until the Masters of the Universe at Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions and the hedge fund criminals like Whitey Tilson are made to pay for treating the world's economies like one giant, rigged casino, they will continue to steal more and more money and blame it on working and middle class people, the unions, the public schools, government workers, pensions, Social Security and the like.
But the fact is, these criminals have gobbled up 80% of the wealth in the United States and they're coming for more.
They won't be happy until they have ALL of it.
Until they are made to fear their criminality and the people they're stealing from, they're going to keep doing this.