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Water charges climbdown shows that physical protest does work

After the notorious ‘attack’ on our Tanaiste, Joan Burton, last week, maybe we Irish will lose our reputation as the least ‘back-boned’ of all the recent IMF/EU/ECB victims?

For too long, our outrage at austerity measures began and ended with calls to Joe Duffy’s radio show.The media storm caused by the protest-march events in Jobstown and Coolock, and the now daily Government vilification of parties/individuals involved in any public demonstrations, only serves to show how tame our public response has been to the incessant austerity programme since 2009. As our Greek brethren have showed, sometimes physical public resistance gets results. Their social and political opposition to the Troika’s privatisation drive, which operated at a different level to our water balloons and eggs, has been so fierce that the Greek government has had to scale back its projected austerity targets from €50bn, by 2015, to a “mere” €11bn, by 2016.

While this doesn’t constitute a victory for their anti-austerity alliance, it does reveal the hostile social and political terrain the Troika and the Greek government have had to navigate.

In recent months, the grassroots campaign in Greece against the privatisation of the public-water utilities, which was spearheaded by veteran activists from the 2011 Movement of the Squares, has also made major strides in rousing public opinion.In late May, the movement was aided by a favorable court ruling, which blocked the privatisation of the Athens water utility. This ruling marks the first significant victory in a collective public push-back that may yet set a precedent and cause the EU/IMF-enforced privatisation drive to come undone at the seams.

Too little too late, perhaps, for us to undo our austerity measures.

But the courage shown by the Greeks, in the face of a a more muscular government than ours, shows what can be done.

We must stick to our campaigns, keep them within the law, and keep the pressure incessant on our elected representatives and government parties.

Austin Stack

Wheatley Hills

Midleton

Co Cork


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