Kevin Doyle Blog

Writing and activism

Heroes of 2014 – Do You Agree?

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Chomsky is famous for saying that a lot of people don’t know how the world really works and, more to the point, they don’t even know that they don’t know!

Direct action by Elmvale estate residents in Cork blocked Irish Water from installing water meters in their area.

There’s much truth to this claim, but with time other factors can come into play and these may alter the disturbing equation that he has set out.

This year, in Ireland, we saw the beginnings of a serious fight-back against austerity.  It seemed, at one level, to ‘appear’ from nowhere, but did it really?

Austerity, in case you are in any doubt, has been the occasion for a massive transfer in wealth from the bottom half of society to the top echelons.  Money aside, the so-called “1%” has also concentrated an even greater amount of power in its own hands – exemplified by a raft of discarded workplace agreements and unilaterally imposed pay cuts.  Austerity, make no mistake, has been a good to the (already) wealthy!

But it is in the nature of highway robbery that, inevitably, it goes too far… And this year in Ireland a point was reached when a significant number of people said ‘Enough’.  But the saying of ‘Enough’ didn’t just happen either.

Over the past year and more there have been people out there during long periods of endless protesting and agitating who did the work that made the saying of ‘enough’ possible.  Here in Cork I know some of these people from my involvement in the Anti-Household Tax protest.  Togher/ Ballyphenane are one notable group, for example, that were to the fore.  So also were the activists in Cobh, in lower Cork harbour.  In these areas, small groups of anti-austerity activists survived the defeat that was the Anti-Household Tax campaign and kept going.  They were stalwart in their opposition to austerity and it has paid off for us all – so far.

I could name some names and in times those names should be recorded for the sake of honesty and to acknowledge the vital role these activists played in this fight-back; but not just now.

For the moment I just want to point the finger at the people pictured in the photo above.  When Irish Water set about installing their meters in the estates on the edge of Cork city, it was the Togher and Ballyphane Anti-Water Tax group that stood their ground.  They talked to people in the estates like Elmvale (in the south Cork city area) and the result was the action you see pictured here.  Non-violent.  Determined.  Highly effective!

In the accompanying photo we see something captured that simply wasn’t visible for quite some time here in Ireland: it is austerity being held at bay.

The actions at Elmvale, in Lehenaghmore, in Rushbrook (to name just a few estates) produced a number of small but very highly significant victories that others around the country took hope and confidence from.  The real  heroes of Ireland 2014 are the people who stood up in these estates and said NO.

The Ballyphehane/ Togher activists showed that building the resistance takes effort, time and a lot of work.  But they also showed that it is possible to win against austerity. Organise locally, be determined and spread the word.

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