Protesters against austerity measures; cuts to health, welfare, and education; the use of Shannon as a US military hub; the closure of St Francis’ Nursing Home; and rural issues, will converge on NUI Galway this weekend where Labour is holding its national conference.
A wide and diverse range of groups, interests, organisations, and political views will be marching to the NUIG campus to display their disaffection with the policies and decisions of the Labour Party in Government.
The Labour conference is taking place in the Bailey Allen Hall, in the university’s Áras Na Mac Léinn building. While protesters will not be allowed access to this area, it is understood that they will be allowed on campus to hold their protests.
Protests are planned by the Galway Alliance Against War, Glór Na Tuaithe - A Rural Voice, campaigners for St Francis Nursing Home, and the Turf Cutter and Contractors Association.
It is understood that the Galway Campaign Against the Household and Water Taxes; Occupy Galway; Anglo: Not our Debt Campaign; Vita Cortex occupation workers; Free Education for Everyone; the Socialist Workers Party; and the Right to Work Campaign will also be protesting under the banner of Unite the Resistance.
The various groups taking part in the protests will gather at Eyre Square at 2pm and march to the university campus.
Rural protesters will be going under the banner of Glór Na Tuaithe - A Rural Voice. Glór Na Tuaithe is an umbrella group that was born out of the anti-septic tank tax campaign, but also covers a wide range or rural concerns.
“Ruairi Quinn is down-grading 600 rural schools, while Pat Rabbitte is overseeing the handover of our natural resources to foreign concerns,” said Glór spokesperson Pádraic an Táilliúra Ó Conghaola. “The root of Ireland’s problems was not caused by the ordinary folk, urban or rural, but by the private banks and the foreign speculators. However, it is we, the people, who are facing the decimation of our way of life, with the closure of rural post offices, rural Garda stations, and down-the-line rural schools.”
A spokesperson for the Turf Cutter and Contractors Association also confirmed their organisation would be in attendance on Saturday’s protest.
“The TCCA will be flying its Banner at this protest in Galway next Saturday,” said a spokesperson. “It was after all a Labour Minister, Michael D Higgins, who transposed the Habitats Directive into Irish Law, without any consideration for the rights of bogland and farmland owners. Since then Labour has done nothing to help those people.”
One of the most colourful protests will be by the Galway Alliance Against War which will be holding ‘Funeral Arrangements for Irish Neutrality’.
The local peace group will have a Tricolour-draped coffin and will distribute memoriam cards on the day, which records “the very violent death of our neutrality”. Mourners have been requested to adhere to the dress code of black. However, there will be a number of mourners in Guantanamo-style orange boiler suits, as a reminder of the CIA ‘rendition flights’ which have frequently used Shannon Airport.
“We are more than conscious that local Labour councillors and many rank-and-file members oppose the policy that has transformed Shannon into a US military hub,” a GAAW spokesperson said, “but the Labour leadership continues to pursue the same policies that have killed our neutrality. Only in the last week, US troops, including US special forces, have been travelling through Shannon en route to war. Nothing has changed since Labour went into coalition.”