SEVERAL years of austerity hasn’t led to Greek protests in Ireland but there is still plenty of unfocused anger, which Chris Quinn is hoping to tap into next weekend.
The Cluain Airne resident is organising a public meeting to oppose the €100 household charge, which will be held in Tullyvarraga Hall on Saturday at 1.30pm.
Mr Quinn hails from Ballyhea, the North Cork village where weekly protest marches against the bailout of the banks have been taking place since last March.
He said the charge is unjust and public protest is the way to fight it. “The household charge is something I don’t believe is fair. As people have said to me, you can bitch and moan in a pub or on Facebook but the time for bitching and moaning is over, it’s time to do something. The Government tried to screw the pensioners and the pensioners fought back. People power is the only way to get anything done anymore. The country is in a mess and there is nothing being done to get us out of it as far as I can see.”
He says the household charge is just one of numerous objectionable austerity measures and he believes the amount being charged will increase significantly in the coming years. “If you start with the household charge, you can get people more aware of other things. A bit of education is a wonderful thing. The more people learn, the more likely they are to sit up and take notice. I’m totally against the bailout of bondholders and the proposed water rates too. The thing with the household charge is that it’s starting at €100 but it’s estimated that within five years, it’ll be up to about €1,500.”
He says his own circumstances are similar to many others and things are very tight. “I’m on a three-day week, I can’t afford to pay out €100. I’m living at the limit of my means as it is. I’m a single parent and I’ve applied for benefits and the medical card but I’ve been rejected and if I’m not entitled to those, I don’t think I’ll get any waiver. Things are tight, they’re not getting any better. Some people will say ‘ah it’s only €100’ but €100 is a lot.”
Mr Quinn says he has been in touch with the organiser of the Ballyhea protest. “The guy behind that is Diarmuid O’Flynn (a well-known Irish Examiner sports journalist) and I’ve known him since I was a child. He said that it’s great to do this but what about the bondholders and all the rest of it? I said to him we’ll take baby steps and see where we go from here.”
Having a public meeting is a better way of starting things than a protest march, he feels. “When I put out the feelers first, there was a lot of interest and I got about 100 replies. But it is one thing getting replies on Facebook but the number that shows up could be another matter. I talked to a guy who is involved in the United Left Alliance and he said if there are only 10 people at a protest on a Saturday afternoon freezing their asses off, it looks bad. With a public meeting, at least it’s a start. If there were 20 there and they told 20 more it could snowball before a second meeting,” he concluded.