People power is back in vogue in Ireland. Last week’s marches on Dáil Éireann by first the elderly and then the youthful brought the nation’s capital to a standstill. These marches were followed up with a 5,000 strong protest outside Leinster House by teachers, students, parents and the concerned average Joe on Wednesday evening.
The people of Ireland have never been afraid to protest about issues, whether it be civil rights in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, the lack of employment opportunities in the 1980s, or numerous protests by farmers over the years about the slow destruction of their way of life. The most surprising thing of last week’s protests was that two groups who are the most socially diverse, students and pensioners, took to the streets on the same day and both gave each other support as they wound their way through the streets of Dublin.
The march and protest which not too long ago had been the vehicle of choice of only small groups, with issues the vast majority of the public in Ireland couldn’t care about apart from choking up the streets of the towns in this country, is now chic again. However as we have learned only too well in this county that no matter how many people we get on the street to march in solidarity for a noble cause, the powers that be don’t always listen to what we have to say. Last year’s protest about the removal of cancer care services from Mayo to a centre of excellence in Galway saw thousands march through the town carrying placards and demanding action. The people who filed into the TF Theatre at the end of the protest heard the ordinary people, the doctors and the politicians from all sides of the political divide give their backing to the will of the people stood before them. But, alas, the good fight could not be one and decision that was made in Dublin held firm.
While they may not be taking to the streets, the people of Mayo will be represented in Dublin this Tuesday (November 4 ) when a delegation from Mayo County Council will make their case to the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, in relation to the new development plan for the county. You may agree with them or not, but they are making a case for the life blood of local democracy and the powers that your most accessible elected representatives have to make decisions about your future. The power for local decisions to be made locally, not by faceless and nameless decision makers who advise ministers on what is right and proper for this county. While the development plan may not be something that the poor unfortunates who have lost their jobs can have time to worry about, while they struggle to pay the mortgage this month or put food on the table, it could be something that will see their chances of getting a new job increase in the future. The law may be on the side of Minister John Gormley, but laws aren’t always right. It maybe not be comparable, but it was only 15 years ago that the law was changed to make homosexuality legal in this country.
Next year is an election year in both local and European terms, it will give the people a chance to either voice their disdain with the current Government or show their support to them if they wish. It gives everyone a chance to put democracy into action and I’m hoping they do no matter who they vote for.