Their numbers may be small but their spirit is unquenchable.
For the past year a small but determined group has staged a peaceful protest against the banks bailout of 2008 under the banner Clonmel Says No To Austerity.
What started as a stationary protest at The Showgrounds Shopping Centre has since moved to the town centre. Every Saturday a group of between 10 and 20 people meet at the Gordon Place car park at noon and march down O’Connell Street, sometimes stopping at the Main Guard for a rally. The group also has a Facebook page, which has attracted 400 likes.
“The group, which is non-political, started in protest against the banks bailout of 2008, we are absolutely opposed to that”, says spokesperson Eoin O’Flaherty.
“That bailout has morphed since then. These debts are being transferred to sovereign debts and that has brought austerity to the country. Homelessness, evictions and suicide have all been on the rise locally as a consequence of the austerity measures introduced since the bailout and the payments made in unsecured bonds”, he says.
What about the argument that the bank bailout was necessary? “If you look at Irish history we’ve had banks that failed. Those banks were dealt with and we moved on”, says Eoin O’Flaherty. “We need to recognise that corporate debt shouldn’t be a problem for the Irish taxpayer. Iceland had a much greater debt per capita but that country has reached the stage where it’s now showing profits in its public expenditure. There’s no reason why Ireland shouldn’t be the same.
The very same ‘People says no’ movement started in Iceland and the people’s voice was heard and acted upon. They didn’t accept the IMF bailout. In Iceland bankers and even those in government involved in transactions that caused the debt were brought to court”.
Eoin O’Flaherty doesn’t believe that most TDs are doing their job in highlighting the concerns raised by protest groups such as Clonmel, which was founded with the same ethos as the Ballyhea Says No group in North Cork, which has been on the go for 3 years. He blames the general apathy among the population on the fact that most people rely too much on what they’re told through the media, without investigating facts for themselves.