We’re mad as hell, but (apart from one town) we’re going to take it

The patrol car was parked across the street, blocking access.

The engine was running, blue light flashing in the morning air.

Molesworth St, which runs to the gates of Leinster House, was eerily deserted, cleared of all vehicles, ringed with crash barriers.

Somebody, somewhere, was under the impression that a massive protest would descend on the seat of parliament on the day the Dáil returned from summer holidays.

After all, the country is banjaxed, most people are strapped for cash, more cuts are on the way, and everybody is mad as hell.

Surely the citizenry were primed to rise up and storm parliament on the first day back at work since mid-July.

Rumour had it that one crowd in particular could pose a problem. A bunch of people from a small North Cork village were due to arrive after three days on the road, gathering followers as they freewheeled up through the country, decrying the capitulation to bondholders.

The gardaí weren’t going to be taken by surprise. They stood around in yellow jackets and leather trousers, their big yellow motorbikes parked up.

Inside the gates, a collection of riot helmets were in place, ready to be accessed at short notice.

Expectant tension was in the air.

And then they arrived from over the horizon, the citizenry coming to claim back their country as surely as their spiritual forbears who stormed the Bastille.

Except... hold on. Where’s the rest of them? Is that all there is?

The turnout for the culmination of a protest by the Ballyhea Bondholder Bailout group was worse than poor.

Less than 100 souls gathered at the barrier erected across the road from the gates of Leinster House. Behind them, Molesworth St stood empty where somebody, somewhere, had expected it to be a heaving, angry mass, letting off steam at the capitulation to banking gamblers.

Instead, there was a smattering of people at the barriers, including some who had joined their North Cork brethren, and a number of opposition TDs, who emerged from the fortified parliament to show solidarity.

Among those present was Independent TD Stephen Donnelly. He had interrupted his holidays in August to travel to Ballyhea with his young sons to join the weekly Sunday march. He was putting a brave face on the turnout.

“They are an inspiration. There should be a group like this in every town in the country. A team of German documentary makers were in my office in Greystones last Saturday and when I pointed out to them that the €64bn this country is paying the bond-holders would equate to €1 trillion in Germany, they said it wouldn’t be tolerated. There would be a revolution.

“Yet we keep paying it out. Another billion on Oct 1 for the AIB bondholders. The lack of protest sends a message to the Government. It says, ‘don’t worry about it. Keep doing what you are doing’.”

Donnelly was joined by Richard Boyd Barrett, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and, at the last moment, Mick Wallace dashing across the road in a green T-shirt to put his shoulder to the wheel.

After less than an hour, the gathering began to dissipate. By 3pm, everybody was ready to leave. Molesworth St was eerie once more, the danger having passed.

The poorly attended gathering was a reaffirmation, if one was needed, as to how the Irish protest. Any threat to their personal entitlements or income is met with outrage and vocal opposition, which occasionally lurches into hysteria.

However, when a matter of wider societal or national importance is at issue, there is precious little take-up.

In the scandal of paying off the gambling debts of bondholders, Ballyhea — assisted by Charleville — stands in isolation, bearing witness when most others avert their eyes.

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