Trade unions, civil society organisations and opposition groups call on public to join A People’s Assembly to demand alternatives to austerity
Yesterday outside the Dáil, a range of trade unions, civil society groups and political organisations announced details for A People’s Assembly, that will take place on Wednesday September 18th at 6pm – the day Dáil reconvenes after the summer recess.
The People’s Assembly will be an alternative working ‘People’s Parliament’ running parallel to the opening evening of the new Dáil session, where groups, organisations and, crucially, members of the public, opposed to further austerity in the forthcoming budget, can put forward their proposals for alternative policies and campaigning actions.
Unlike previous anti-austerity demonstrations, a feature of the People’s Assembly will be that ordinary participants will get an opportunity to put forward ideas, speak and vote on alternative policies, and decisions will be made as to future actions.
Starting from September 18th, the assembly organisers hope the initiative will help to develop A People’s Charter of alternative policies to austerity and agree a plan for a campaign of people power running towards the upcoming budget and beyond. Organisers will also be suggesting the convening of similar ‘People’s Assemblies’ across the country over the coming weeks and months.
Buses and contingents from across the country will be travelling to Dublin to participate in the event.
A very wide range of trade union, civil society, political and campaign groups are supporting the People’s Assembly initiative. These include: Unite, Mandate, The Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union, People Before Profit Alliance, Sinn Fein, National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), Single Parents Acting for Rights for Kids (SPARK), The Woodland League, Claiming Our Future, The Natural Resources Protection Alliance, Socialist Workers Party, Donegal Campaign Against Household and Water Tax, Donegal Action Against Austerity, West Cork Community Alliance, Anti-Racism Ireland. Anti-Deportation Ireland, Irish Anti War Movement, Cork Feminista, Action on X, Feminist Open Forum
Individuals supporting the People’s Assembly include: Richard Boyd Barrett TD, Aengus O’Snodaigh TD , Fr.Peter McVerry, John Halligan TD, Thomas Pringle TD, Catherine Murphy TD, Patrick Nulty TD, Maureen O’Sullivan TD, Tommy Broughan TD, Finian McGrath TD,
Jimmy Kelly, Unite Regional Secretary said: “The fundamental principle of democracy is consent – and working people have neither been consulted, nor given their consent, to the programme of relentless austerity being pursued by this Government and its predecessor. Democracy is not about populist reforms – such as abolishing the Seanad. Democracy demands the full participation of working people in the political institutions and workplaces up and down this country; it demands full transparency and accountability; it demands an end to the very idea of economic and state elites. Next Wednesday, when the Dail returns from its summer break, Unite will be joining the People’s Assembly outside Leinster House to say – enough is enough. It’s time for a change of direction. It’s time for democracy.”
Richard Boyd Barrett TD, People Before Profit Alliance and one of the event organisers said: “The People’s assembly is an attempt to bring together the wide range of disparate groups, organisations and communities that are suffering as a result of austerity or who are campaigning against into an effective new movement of people power demanding real alternatives. Huge numbers of people simply cannot take anymore and the next budget threatens to push them over the edge. We are urging people not to suffer in silence or fight alone any longer but to come together on September 18th and create an irresistible wave of people power to force a change in government policy.”
John Douglas, Mandate Trade Union said “Ireland’s policy makers and institutions have failed communities the length and breadth of Ireland. The failed policies of austerity pursued by this Government have led to excessively high levels of unemployment, increased poverty levels, driven unsustainable income inequalities, increased levels of precarious working and crucially suppressed domestic demand for goods and services by attacking those on low and middle incomes. With the spectre of Budget 2013 looming and further attacks on workers’ rights and the welfare system ahead of us, Mandate supports the initiative of the People’s Assembly next Wednesday and we encourage our members to unite alongside community activists, progressive political representatives, trade unionists and citizens everywhere to demand a better Ireland with true transparent democracy and real political change in the interests of all our people”
Orla O’Connor, Director of the Women’s Council of Ireland, said, “Austerity has severely impacted on women on children, cuts to payments, incomes and services have made everyday living extremely difficult for families in Ireland. NWCI believes there are choices. The People’s Assembly provides an opportunity to bring together different voices in solidarity to build an alternative economy for an equal and just society.’
Mick O’Reilly, President, Dublin Council of Trade Unions said, “There are four principles – ending austerity, increasing investment, introducing growth-friendly tax measures and raising income and wage floors – which can help reinvigorate the economy, increase employment and raising living standards. The Dublin Council of Trade Unions believes that progressives need to build the broadest possible coalition to promote these principles and start putting the economy and society back on the road to growth and prosperity. The People’s Assembly on September 18th is part of that coalition-building”.
Andrew St Ledger, PRO, The Woodland league said, “This government has failed the people it is meant to serve, once again , private vested interests are served first. The corporate wind energy plans for the midlands to supply energy to the UK, with no public benefit, is a clear example. The lack of any new vision to use our natural resources, like forests, wind, oil and gas, water, to serve the peoples needs is plain to see in this Republic of vested interests……”
Louise Bayliss, SPARK said, ”SPARK stand united in solidarity with every citizen suffering under austerity. Austerity causes human suffering and has failed as an economic policy. We need to send a loud message to the government. There are alternatives there, use them.”
Rory Hearne of Claiming Our Future said; “Claiming Our Future is supporting the people’s assembly on the 18th of September because austerity is devastating this country. We are a network campaigning for an Ireland based on equality, democracy and sustainability. Austerity undermines all of these values. There are alternatives to austerity. The wealthy should take on the burden of adjustment through greater tax justice, employment should be created by using of the National Pension Reserve Fund and environmentally sustainable development should be our guiding goal. It is wrong socially and economically to be cutting more from welfare, children, education and health.”
John Halligan, Independent TD said, “Five years into austerity, the country is swamped in mass unemployment, unpayable debt, forced emigration, while a refusal to transform the system that created the crisis prevails. The weakest and most vulnerable in our society were being walked upon, with little job security for those lucky enough to have work, rising poverty levels and evictions. And our highly trained graduates, our hope for the future, are being offered the slim pickings of a JobBridge scheme or the emigration boat, with one now choosing the latter option every six minutes. I refuse to accept that this is the best we can do for our young people.”
Maureen O’Sullivan, Independent TD “The voices of the people have to be heard, respected and given consideration otherwise we are living in a sham democracy.Austerity is having disastrous consequences on the most vulnerable in our communities – children, teenagers, lone parents, those with disabilities, those with mental health issues, our senior citizens. It is having very negative effects on our education system. It is creating immeasurable difficulties and stress for people; further cuts will be unbearable. The cruel irony is money is always found to pay off the debts of bondholders and banks – those people and institutions who should have known better if they had respect for the principle of fairness, justice, equality. To use the cliche: ‘together we stand, divided we fall’; there must be a massive response to object to further austerity.”