Eyre Square, Galway, Ireland
On the 16th of May last year Gardaí and workers from Galway city council launched an early morning raid on the Occupy Galway camp in Eyre Square. As dawn broke on the 215th day of the protest, the city was put under martial law and all streets into Eyre Square into Eyre Square were blocked off. The 9 people present at the time of the raid could offer little resistance to the overwhelming force of the Garda public order unit. After the occupiers were removed from the camp the Gardaí and workers began to destroy the structures and remove the tents. They showed little or no regard for personal belongings, books, clothes, computer equipment and other items were indiscriminately dumped along with tents, tarps, banners and bedding. The Gardaí had said previously that we were breaking no law and that Eyre Square had in fact been safer while the camp was there. In the end the Gardaí, the supposed guardians of the peace, caved to political pressure and launched the raid. They ignored the fact that we were a peaceful assembly of citizens and were entitled under the constitution to protest. Instead of protecting human rights like they were supposed to do, they instead treated us like criminals. Two occupiers were arrested on the morning of the raid, one for refusing to leave his tent and another for trying to get through the Garda line around the square. Three more were arrested in the days following the raid for writing with chalk on Eyre Square.
The camp was intended to be a space for political discussion and expression. What form that expression took was not up to the Gardaí or the Council to decide. We maintained it because there was no other such space in Galway. The people who participated in the camp were not a unified collective of people who agreed on everything. We all came for different reasons and had different skills and interests but we worked together for 7 months to keep something going that was bigger than all of us. There were of course many disagreements between people. That was to be expected. Many of us had never done anything like that before and maybe one mistake was trying to agree too quickly on the end goal. What united us was the basic idea that we all as human beings should be free to make our own decisions and choices about our lives. Whether we can stay and live in our own country should not be determined by the profit margins of a few billionaires, neither should our water, food, health, education or any other public service be seen as a commodity that can be traded or sold.
The media’s portrayal of activists and protest in Ireland is nothing short of a disgrace. The numbers on marches and at demonstrations is almost always revised downward. They label activists as hippies or militant troublemakers with nothing better to do than complain. They dismiss tens of thousands of people on the streets as something that deserves only a brief mention on the 9 o’clock news between a success story of an Irish businessman in America and more government lies about the road to recovery.
Everyone knows that things haven’t improved since the raid on Eyre Square. Banks have been given the go ahead to increase evictions, family homes are being taxed, our water supply is set for privatization, our forests are under threat of being sold and hospitals the length and breath of the country are closing. The Gardaí are being withdrawn from the countryside and are facing crippling cuts to their wages. The ones who raided the camp are now protesting themselves. Teachers, nurses, firefighters, the people we all depend on are being targeted for more cuts. College fees are going up and the grant is being cut. Our young people are emigrating in droves, many families have to choose whether to pay the ESB bill or buy food and as a result 1 in 4 children go to school hungry. Old people are abandoned in their homes and sit in fear of being burgled. The number of suicides is rising and there are rumblings in the unions about strike action. We have been signed up to 40 years of debt slavery by this government so not only this generation but those innocents to come will have to pay for the corruption and greed of the rich.
The situation cannot be allowed to continue the way it is. We are witnessing first hand the destruction of Irish society. Every single person in this country is effected one way or the other. We have been abandoned by those in power and, to add insult to injury, we are being made to think that it was our own fault. We are not responsible for this. We have lost our jobs, our homes, our futures and our self esteem. We have been made to feel powerless, weak and afraid. Those in power want us to feel helpless so they can control us easier.
Ireland is not a poor country, we have some of the most fertile land in the world, we produced enough food last year to feed 30 million people, we have 25% of Europe’s sea is Irish territory yet only have 4% of the fishing quotas, we have an estimated €1.6 Trillion of untapped oil and gas reserves off the west coast, we have hundreds of billions worth of renewable resources. The ownership of all this potential wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small minority to the detriment of the state and Irish people as a whole. We don’t even have the option of using these resources to build the economy because under the IMF agreement we have been forced to privatize many of them.
To mark the anniversary of the unconstitutional dismantling and destruction of our camp in Eyre Square, Occupy Galway will be holding an event.
Re-Occupy Eyre Square will be a day of music, workshops, food and informative talks, revisiting the reasons for the setting up of the camp and asking, “Has anything gotten any better?” “What can we do to affect constructive change?”
The event will take place on Thursday the 16th of May from 12:00 midday.
All are welcome.