Over 5,000 people, pissed off and angry at a government that continues to enforce poverty, insecurity and growing inequality on the population turned up to express this discontent at the Labour party conference in Galway in the west of Ireland today.
Many of those who attended have been part of the largest movement of civil disobedience in living memory in Ireland. 800,000+ people have refused to pay a Household tax demanded by an increasingly under pressure government. The deadline for payment was 31st of March. Whilst Labour – a minority partner in the current regime – themselves argue that they are having a mollifying effect of the larger party Fine Gael, this is dismissed by a population who see Labour heading the same way as the Green party. The Greens were a junior party in the previous administration who where wiped out electorally, less to do with their own internal policies, and more for being lackeys to the Fine Fail party that ran state administration as a personal fiefdom as is shown by recent tribunals of inquiry. Whilst its is unlikely that Labour will actually be wiped out at the next election, the more significant and emerging part of the story is a population reaching the limits of what it is willing to take from elected representatives who act managers of poverty and inequality. This is the stuff of social movements.
Whilst state and privately owned media in Ireland continue to play a complicit role in supporting a radical neo-liberal agenda, ( no doubt the people not in uniform will be called ‘violent’ whilst those spraying chemicals in to faces of people will be ensuring ‘public order’) the relationship actually disguises the reality of growing grassroots peoples movements on the ground from government, perhaps no bad thing.
As far a I know this is the first time that pepper spray has been used to suppress dissent at a political demonstration in the south of Ireland. The use of pepper spray is an escalation of police tactics from a force that regularly uses batons, fists and boots on political and social demonstrations. Politicians in Ireland, particularly those in government are being forced to meet behind increasingly large ‘security’ operations. This is a pattern that is reflected across the globe where the moral and social legitimacy of elected ‘representation’ is rapidly collapsing under the weight of populations with increasing political and economic literacy but who simultaneously are feeling and living with the direct impacts of unjust economic and power distribution.
Less than 2 weeks ago 10,000 people gathered outside the conference of the senior party in the administration again with a heavy police operation with the creation of “sterile zones”, essentially shutting down the freedom of movement around a significant portion of the north inner quays. It increasingly seems that the government is just one or two “issues” away from losing any sense of legitimacy from the wider population.
Labour delegates in the conference where locked into conference hall at NUIG Galway as people broke through police lines, and as the picture should people turned up with pikes (im assuming its a model but not sure)
Some Twitter comment below