The Year in Protest: Ireland
This blog entry is written by Treasa O’Brien, Director of ‘Too Good to Resist’ – a creative documentary for the post-Tiger generation. She reflects on a year of researching and filming for the documentary and looks toward to progress and inspiration in 2013.
The Irish psyche is a complex beast and we are continuing to get ourselves in knots as we develop the film ‘Too Good to Resist’. Rather than being too conservative, some people have answered our questioning with the possibility that the Irish still have it too good: “well at least it’s not the 80s”. But emigration and employment figures are rising every day. Emigration is at ‘famine levels‘ and those in employment are facing more and more cuts and less security. Neoliberalism hides its real face with social partnership, making a self-censoring culture with a sedated and fearing workforce fumbling in the less greased till.
In the summer, when travelling the country shooting interviews for our film, the boycott of the household charge was seen by many as the hope and the precursor to a mass movement. But it has petered out into a more individualist tax avoidance rather than a solidarity-based boycott. Across Europe on 14 November 2012, workers joined together in solidarity marches, but even the tumbleweed didn’t take to the streets in Ireland that day. The only mass demonstrations seen in Summer were those in support of Sean Quinn and Youth Defence’s pro-life campaign but many creative and active protestors have come out in defense of women’s rights this winter. The X case has been debated in light of EU legislation and was thrown into high relief with the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar. In the media it is still very much framed in a Catholic discourse with archbishops as spokespeople for women’s rights. However, legislation has been passed to protect the life of a woman if it is in danger, thought it still does not grant women full rights over their bodies and lives. Meanwhile, society continues its doublethink avoidance of this issue, partly due to the get-out clause of an ‘English solution to an Irish problem’.
Ideas for change are growing as people wake up to the reality of the have nots and the have yachts. On 24 November 2012 there was a demonstration in Ireland of thousands who called for a strike at least. This demonstration reflects a shift in attitude, as more and more grassroots are starting to sprout. The Ballyhea community continues its weekly protests to raise awareness of how bondholders have been bailed out – they will be on their 95th protest on Sunday 30 December 2012. Paula Geraghty continues to document those communities who do resist, no matter how small on her YouTube channel Trade Union TV. There is more thought to the future, more action in the now, rather than the deer in headlights attitude of the last couple of years. But it is still not a critical enough mass.
In 2013 we will continue to develop our film exploring Irish attitudes to civil resistance, and the European context. We are looking for funding to get it made sooner rather than later! Their hope is that the discourse in it will help understanding and provoke change. We presented the film’s ideas in progress at The Future State of Ireland conference in London in November 2012 where the present, past and expected state of Ireland and the real meaning of a republic were debated.
What is the social contract for the next generation? What bread and what roses shall we create for ourselves? Can we reclaim ideas and practices of economy and republicanism in their most true senses: the first being careful management of resources and the second one being of the people, the public?
And so to leave you with some words from James Connolly which seem just as pertinent for 2013:
“Ireland, as distinct from her people, is nothing to me; and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for “Ireland” and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland — yea, wrought by Irishmen upon Irish men and women, without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call Ireland”.