Pouring rain and wintry weather conditions did not prevent a hardy group of protesters from gathering at Market Square, Castlebar, on Wednesday last to rally against the handover of €1.25 billion of taxpayers’ money to fund unsecured Anglo bondholders.
Chanting “Stop the handover”, “Don’t pay the bondholder” and displaying placards calling for ‘No cuts’, the peaceful protestors received numerous honks of support from motorists passing through the busy junction in the square during the lunchtime protest. The group moved on to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s constituency office on Tucker Street where they handed in a letter of protest decrying the bond payments and recent cuts to public services.
Arguing that the non-payment of the €1.25 billion to the bondholders could have avoided the introduction of new levies such as the household charge, the septic tank charge, and cuts to a number of public and community services, Sinn Féin Castlebar town councillor Thérèse Ruane told the Mayo Advertiser: “This is such a huge amount of money, it’s half of the austerity cuts brought in during the Budget alone. When you break it down to a local level, just look at the threatened closure of the psychiatric services in Castlebar and Ballina and what a fraction of that money would do to keeping those services and upgrading them.”
Cllr Ruane added: “It was a great turn out for the protest especially given the cold weather - I also received calls from people who had intended to make the protest but couldn’t due to the weather and other reasons, but they were fully behind it. While it was Mayo Sinn Féin who organised the protest, it was great to see that it wasn’t just party members who showed up, as there were also members of community groups who have faced cuts, concerned individuals, business people, and a lot of younger people in attendance, as well as a number of third level students and even second level students who joined in. The protest showed that people aren’t afraid to stand up and be counted in expressing their anger at this payment to the bondholders by the Government.”
While handing in the letter of protest to the Taoiseach’s office could not turn back the clock on the payment, Cllr Ruane asserted that the protest gesture was symbolic and important and active engagement was something everyone should get involved in if they have a grievance about the way things are being run by the Government.
“I’ve always believed and told people that if they have an issue with the way things are being run, they should write a letter to their local TDs, senators, the relevant Minster, and the Taoiseach of the day and let them know.”
Septic tank meeting tonight
A public meeting has also been called by Sinn Féin which will take place in the Welcome Inn Hotel, Castlebar, today (Friday ) at 8.30pm where the proposed septic tank inspection charge will be discussed. Cllr Ruane said: “It’s a very serious issue, the meeting will be addressed by Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh who is raising the issue in the Seanad this week. This meeting follows on from meetings that were held in Belmullet and Newport which got huge attendances. Both towns don’t have sewerage schemes and people in both areas were very concerned about this issue. While Castlebar town has a sewerage scheme, you don’t have to go too many miles outside of the urban area where an awful lot of people don’t have one and have to rely on septic tanks.”