At just after 5 p.m. Wednesday evening, 600 angry marchers took to the streets of Cork city to demonstrate their opposition to the 2011 budget and the state’s IMF- and EU-designed four-year plan. Marchers assembled on Patrick’s Bridge for some time before 5, and when sufficient numbers had arrived, the crowd moved up-river to the nearby Emmet Place in front of the Opera House, from where the march departed, led by the banner of the Cork Social Welfare Defenders campaign.
The protest then went down Patrick St., where the pedestrians gave it an enthusiastic welcome, by and large. Many people carried home-made placards, some very humorous and inventive, and there were plenty of banners and flags, which gave the march great visual impact. The march generated quite a bit of noise, partly by chanting and partly by some marchers banging the saucepans they brought with spoons. The anarchist presence was especially visible, with many red-and-black flags being carried and the Cork WSM branch banner was prominent throughout. Several other banners were the product of local anarchists and libertarians at banner-making session at Solidarity Books the previous weekend and they were carried by their makers through the city streets this evening.
The march concluded at Daunt Square, and the 600-strong or more crowd listened to speeches from members of a couple of campaign groups and local political figures, including James McBarron of the Workers Solidarity Movement. This part was compered by Noel Murphy of the Independent Workers Union, which had called for this protest. The speeches in general referred to the attack on the working class the budget represented, the cuts to carers and the blind particularly mentioned, as well as the fact that Brian Cowen and his likes earn a greater multiple of the wages of the lowest-paid after this budget than before it. There was also much talk from many of the speakers about the general election that will be coming soon, and some dodgy rhetoric about national sovereignty, but the message that workers and communities needed to be united and organised in order to defeat this budget and four-year plan came across well enough for the crowd to hear.
Immediately after the march, there was a meeting in Solidarity Books of anarchists, libertarians and a few others besides, numbering nearly fifty, who discussed how the protest went and what future actions and events anarchists would like to see happen in the near future. A further meeting was called for next Tuesday to firm up plans and continue discussions.
All in all, a good if somewhat modest start to a long season of protest and hopefully, movement building.
The following is approximately the text of James Mc Barron’s speech at the protest:
“I’m angry tonight, and I can see you are angry too. This budget is the latest attack, and we are all under attack – pensioners, students, workers, unemployed, children, the sick.
“Tonight there is no public versus private sector, no young versus old, no worker versus unemployed. There is just rich versus poor, government and bankers versus the working class. We must stand together united against the common enemy the government, the bankers, the international financiers, the IMF, the EU, all of them seeking to make us pay the debts of the greedy corrupt banking system. It’s not our debt and we wont pay!
“There is an election coming and some people think that will provide us with answers, but the election will change nothing but the faces of our rulers, who will continue to play the same tune, tomake the common working people of Ireland pay for the crisis their friends created by their criminal behaviour.
“The answer from us will come on the streets and not in the Dáil. By us organising to fight their cuts and taxes in every workplace, in every school and college, in every community, in every home. United as a class against them we can defeat them. But we need to organise to defeat them, we need to organise so that they fear us and that their successor will fear us.
“This city the rebel city once played its part in breaking the British empire and the working class must rise to the challenge again. Everyone here must get to work to build a mighty movement to oppose the attacks on our class.
“Every union member must talk to their fellow workers and strive to re-take our unions from the tired old compromised bureaucrats, to rebuild the democratic traditions of the trade union movement, to create a habit of direct democracy in our unions like the Independent Workers Union. Insist that your branch begins holding meetings, that these are democratic, that the officials do your bidding and that they are accountable. We must begin building for a general strike.
“If you’re not in a union then I suggest you join up straight away.
“If you’re a pensioner get stuck into the pensioners’ campaigns, a student get involved in FEE, unemployed join the Cork Social Welfare Defenders.
“In your circle of friends, neighbourhood, get together to form an action group to fight the cuts, link up with the rest of us, lets get organising, lets get building!
“And if the government resists the will of the people, if they insist on children and the old going hungry and cold, on the sick lying on trolleys in overcrowded hospitals, on workers being left idle and our young people taking the boat or plane, then we must be prepared to take power into our own hands to take the factories, the colleges, the oil and gas and build a revolutionary society without government or bosses, where all will be equal.
“Organise for victory!”
WORDS & IMAGES: Ray