ICTU general secretary David Begg admitted that the total turnout — which before Thursday had been predicted to reach 100,000 — could drop due to the “spin” around the promissory note deal.
“What the Government has managed to do is put a car-jack under one corner of this huge weight of debt.
“But we need an enormous crane to lift it off us. Until we do that we cannot say our problems are on the road to being solved. This total debt is 42% of the total cost of the European adjustment. It’s extremely unfair that level should fall on the Irish people. That is €9,000 per head. It is €191 for the rest of the 27 member states. It would be a fatal mistake to think that is the end of it. We have an enormous amount of work to do to get out of the woods.”
Mr Begg said the worst result that could come out of this week is that European authorities think the Irish are appeased and the matter is at an end.
“We need to say to them that what is being done to us is extremely unfair. We are not going to carry the bulk of this burden for the rest of Europe for saving the banking system of Europe. We will share the burden, but fairly and equally.”
Fears have been expressed that a wedge is being driven between frontline public service workers and the rest of the public service over the means by which the Government will achieve a €1bn cut in the exchequer paybill.
A large chunk of that total is being sought through reductions in overtime, premium payments and allowances which the frontline staff say makes up a large percentage of their wages.
However, ICTU believes the austere measures which have precipitated today’s protest rise above any differences between one type of public service worker and another and also between the public and private sectors.
“We have this ginormous, huge debt weighing down on the Irish people,” said Mr Begg.
“€64bn of bank debt. On top of that 80,000 of our people are carrying personal debts in the way of mortgages of about €17bn.”
Today’s marches are taking place in six different locations and participants are asked to gather at 1.30pm. The assembly points are:
- Dublin: Cook St (near Civic Offices, Wood Quay);
- Cork: SIPTU offices, Connolly Hall, Lapps Quay;
- Galway: Galway Cathedral car park;
- Limerick: Mechanics’ Institute, Hartstonge St;
- Waterford: The Glen (in front of The Forum);
- Sligo: County Council Offices, Riverside.