Rejecting the slurs and seizing the moment


In recent weeks we have seen a concerted and co-ordinated effort by the Government, the Gardaí and the media to paint protesters as dangerous and violent, with an agenda of manipulating communities into confrontation for the sake of confrontation. This is a deliberate and outrageous misrepresentation of protesters and communities that are opposing Irish Water, the installation of meters, and water charges more generally. It is insulting to our class and shows the contempt in which the establishment hold us.

Reports of violence against Irish Water employees and gardaí are spun and widely commented on without a shred of evidence. Meanwhile photographs of Garda brutality are blatantly ignored. The Taoiseach, Tánaiste, senior politicians and now even David Begg, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, openly accuse protesters of violence and even imply membership of armed organisations, without the need to show any evidence. Extremely convenient “bomb threats” are made public and given hours of air time. Raids are made on dissident republicans at opportune times. And then in the Dáil a Government TD likens protesters to ISIS terrorists.

This is all a co-ordinated effort to blacken the name of protest and turn people away from standing up for themselves. We have to ask ourselves, Why we are seeing the most widespread and overt attacks, physical and ideological, on working-class communities in decades? Why are the Government, the media (private and state), judiciary, Gardaí, a variety of both domestic and foreign corporations, various chambers of commerce and the European Union all lined up against us?

The state—not just the Government political parties—are losing the support of the people. Communities are joining the dots between the debt and austerity, between establishment parties and private corporations, between the media and big business, and between the state and the European Union. And this is dangerous: this is dangerous to the establishment and to the position of Ireland within the global economic system. This is why the state is now scrambling to crush communities and blacken the name of activism and protest.

The state wants us to play by their rules, and confine ourselves to their truncated conception of democracy. They want to reduce politics to the farce of the Dáil and of elections every few years. This is safe; this is their ground. But people—very many brave working-class people—have managed to bring politics back into the street, and that scares the establishment parties. The working class are the majority, but they are not meant to organise, and they are certainly not meant to engage in political action. At best they should passively vote every few year for one of the list of political parties approved by the Irish Times.

This overtly violent response and increasingly desperate reaction of the state should give us courage and the conviction that we are winning; but it should also give us even more reason to think deeply about tactics for now and strategy for the long term. And that is why the beautiful, almost poetic candlelight vigil outside Coolock Garda Station protesting against police brutality was so right.

Knowing the state’s tactics of trying to create violence to discredit the movement, of planting stories, and of possibly even infiltrating movements to create splits and division, means that we have to be clever and not fall into their traps. Every time they hit us we must stand with dignity and discipline. Unity in the national movement must be maintained, and the right of peaceful, dignified and militant protest defended.

Deeper thought on long-term strategy among groups and within communities is now needed. But a big turn-out on 10 December will keep the state under pressure and show that their tactics are failing.