How convenient. Just a few days before protest marches against Irish Water are set to take place all around the country, a video is uploaded onto You Tube which shows a small group of activists heaping abuse upon the President of Ireland outside a Dublin school last Friday afternoon.
For the Government, horrified by the sight of 100,000 people on the streets of Dublin late last year, the timing of the video release could not be better. By their reckoning, the abuse reinforces the message that those who oppose this new charge are members of a “sinister fringe”.
And then RTE News, seen by many on the left as nothing better than a propaganda machine for the same Government, makes the video the main item on the main evening news.
The message is simple: those who protest are unreasonable extremists, not to be trusted, incapable of rational debate.
When you view the video, it’s hard to argue. When people
use words like “parasite”, “traitor” and “midget” against a President who was
democratically elected by the people, they are doing themselves and their cause
|Protesting against Irish Water in Galway city centre
They turn people away from marching, they reinforce the message that it’s only really the “loony left” who attend such things.
They completely damage a righteous cause when people all over Europe should be excited in this of all weeks, when the people of Greece dared to vote against austerity and swept a radical new left-wing party to power.
Syriza, and Podemos in Spain, have shown that change really is possible at a time when left wing activists in Ireland are still fighting among themselves.
It’s a huge pity that the politics of protest in this country have been hijacked by a vocal and abusive minority yet again.
There are some on the left who would rather see 50 than 50,000 at a protest, because they are so keen to hang onto the higher moral ground.
They are always happier on the outside, roaring into loudhailers, than winning people over to their cause.
By refusing to apologise for their despicable behaviour in targeting the President, a symbolic figure with few real powers, they turn a whole swathe of people off attending the kind of mass protests which caused the Government such headaches late last year.
People know it is wrong to make ordinary people pay a new water tax to a private company. People know it’s wrong that executives at the top of Irish Water, or those installing meters on their behalf, are being paid such obscene amounts of money.
Especially at a time when our hospitals are overcrowded and there is a homelessness crisis in our cities.
I used to follow a page called ‘Call For a Revolution in Ireland’ on Facebook. It contained some truly informative posts and updates from the underground, the marginalised, and people who are struggling to keep food on the table all around Ireland.
It portrayed a true picture of how much damage austerity was causing to ordinary, working-class people, who have simply had enough after seven years of bailing out bankers and bondholders at this stage.
But I gave up when I kept reading so many comments which were not only ill-informed, they contained vile personalised abuse against so many politicians.
I hope to attend the protest against Irish Water in Galway city centre this Saturday (Eyre Square, 1pm). But I’m also aware that so many people who saw the RTE News tonight will have been turned off ever attending another protest about this issue.
People should think before they post on Facebook, or before they hurl vile abuse at an elderly politician who has few real powers.
If they really wanted politicians to stop Irish Water being enacted into law, people should have canvassed their own TDs – many of whom were in terror at the size of the protests – last November and December.
Roaring expletive led abuse at an elderly politician only alienates people who are genuinely fearful at having to pay yet another austerity bill.
At a time when people are waking up to the injustice of seeing so many pay so much for the crimes of so few, it’s terrible that the vile actions of a loud minority are tearing apart a campaign which had so much potential to create change just a few short months ago.
Instead of hurling abuse at Gardai and politicians, or fighting among themselves, Irish protesters still have an awful lot to learn.
Instead of taking inspiration from Syriza’s success in Greece this week, angry Irish protesters have merely shot themselves in the foot yet again.
And the happiest people of all are the Irish Government Ministers and the Irish Water executives, conscious that the actions of a few outside a Dublin school last Friday will scare many people away from the protests this weekend.