OVER 150,000 workers around the country, and in the north took to the streets in a series of marches last Friday to protest against proposed Government cuts in pay and services, and British government cuts in the north of Ireland.
In the Republic, rallies were held in Dublin, Cork, Dundalk, Galway, Limerick, Sligo, Tullamore and Waterford.
The main march in Dublin left Parnell Square and proceeded down O’Connell Street, around College Green and on to Merrion Square for a large rally.
However, speakers at the rally said that 100,000 people took part in the Dublin protest.
20,000 took part in the protest in Cork City and 15,000 marched in Limerick.
Public sector workers were joined on the Cork march by many employees from the private sector in a show of solidarity.
In Waterford, local trade union branches were joined by delegations from Kilkenny, south Tipperary and Wexford.
10,000 people took part in the march in Waterford city.
A leader of the Galway Council of Trade Unions addressed a 5,000-strong crowd and said they fully supported the ICTU’s ten-point plan to protect jobs and incomes.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which organised the day of action, is opposed to the Government’s economic strategy, which it says will inflict unfair hardship on working people and the vulnerable in society.
‘We hope that the Government realises that there is a strong opinion against the Budget proposals,’ said ICTU General Secretary David Begg.
He added: ‘We hope that they will look at our plan, which is for a more gentle transition in the period of adjustment.
‘By deflating the economy so quickly and strongly they will push it towards a prolonged slump. They (the Government) don’t realise that.’
SIPTU President Jack O’Connor told the crowd in Dublin that the 5% of population who own 40% of the country’s wealth would have to be forced to pay their share towards correcting the country’s finances.
Employers’ groups have criticised the protests. IBEC said the protest would send out the wrong signal to potential investors abroad, and would be damaging to jobs.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen has insisted the Government must find savings worth roughly 4bn euros in the Budget on 9 December.
Workers marching in Dublin accused the Government of trying to divide the public and private sectors.
‘Divide and conquer’ is their policy in the run-up to the December Budget, News Line was told.
The regional secretary of the Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU), Arthur Hall, said the divide was ‘fabricated by higher society to divide and conquer’.
He said he believed driving a wedge between the two sectors was a Government ploy to push through cutbacks.
‘There is no divide as far as we’re concerned,’ said one civil servant. ‘We’re all worker bees making the money and they’re living off it.’
Shopkeeper Peter Fitzpatrick said he found the solidarity among protesters refreshing. ‘This issue will keep us together and make us stronger, not weaker,’ he said.
Workers, students, pensioners and unemployed people from both sectors were present chanting slogans such as, ‘No way, we want our pay!’
Postman Martin Wilson said he attended because he did not want to see future generations suffer in what he believed to be an unfair society. ‘They will not tax people on very big salaries,’ he said.
Martin Ward from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office said: ‘I don’t think it’s fair that lower-paid people should be footing the bill for the Government’s mistakes.’
There were calls made on the demonstrations for a 48-hour general strike November 24th.
l In advance of the National Day of Action the Irish TUC made it clear that ‘there are currently NO talks taking place between Congress and Government on a possible new National Agreement.
‘The only discussions currently taking place are those between the public sector unions and Government as their employer, on possible reductions in the public sector pay bill and related matters.
‘Congress is not currently engaged in any talks with Government regarding a new National Agreement.’