Protests, persuasion and violence

If like me you did not until recently know much about the political party or movement called Eirigi, then that gap in your knowledge is probably being filled fast. If you look at their website, you will see a photograph of Mary Harney (Minister for Health) splattered with red paint courtesy of Eirigi member Louise Minihan, and you will read their view that yesterday there was a ‘Garda assault on a student-led protest in Dublin’ (reported in other media as violence initiated by a small contingent, including Eirigi activists, who hijacked the USI-led protest against fees).

It is worth saying that, on the whole, Ireland has a good record of peaceful protest, which is one of the key civil liberties that should be protected and cherished in any democratic society. There have been occasions – particularly on May 1st demonstrations – when this freedom has been abused by groups often with ulterior motives, but we do not have the experience of regular violence on the streets that we sometimes see in other countries, including European countries.

In the context of yesterday’s protest march, we are told that groups such as ‘Free Education for Everyone’ (FEE), had ‘called for left wing support at the demonstration’ to overcome ‘the futility of marching from A to B and listening to the same speeches from aspiring politicians’, and the attempted occupation of the Department of Finance and the accompanying violence were the product of that.

Higher education in Ireland is in crisis and possibly in peril. One thing we manifestly do not need is violence that will further alienate citizens from the higher education sector – we know that cutbacks applied to universities and colleges are on the whole seen as appropriate by many people, and this kind of thing certainly won’t help. If demonstrations are about persuading politicians and people to change course, this was not the way to do it. I acknowledge fully that what happened was not intended by the Union of Students in Ireland; but they may want to re-assess their campaign in the light of it.

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8 Comments on “Protests, persuasion and violence”

  1. copernicus Says:

    Ferdinand,

    There were attempted occupation of the premises of the Department of Business in London,by a group of university of London, mostly from the SOAS (where a small core of student militancy is palpable, some overseas students too joining them to swell their ranks..). where the offices of ministers-Vince Cable and David Willets are located, The reaction of the Public was not favourable. As for: “we know that cutbacks applied to universities and colleges are on the whole seen as appropriate by many people..”, this has been the overwhelming reaction in my borough in London which has 2 universities, two colleges and a number of secondary schools. This is because no upfront fee need to be paid, fee loans and maintenance loans are given to those eligible and repayment when they earn above a threshold.

  2. wendymr Says:

    Interesting… on that entire Eirigí website, I don’t see a single name. No president/chair, no membership secretary, not even a press contact. One wonders what they have to hide.

    The whole thing reminds me of the SWP in the UK.

  3. BBrian Says:

    The Gardai should be trained to deal with protests. What happened yesterday was grown men attacking kids, using batons. The Gardai were far more violent than the few students throwing empty cans at them. Even if it was hijacked by the far left, the majority of students there were not any danger to anyone and would’ve gotten bored and gone home if they hadn’t been attacked.

    Watch this video to see Gardai using batons to hit students who are sitting on the ground, and to see one dragged along the ground by her hair.

  4. Colum McCaffery Says:

    1. I expect exemplary behaviour from public servants, including Gardai.
    2. The worst form of gurrier would not hit someone already on the ground. Any Garda who would do such a thing should be dealt with harshly.
    3. I recall the night at Lansdowne Road when Ireland were one up against England and English neo-Nazis rioted, caused the game to be abandoned and damaged the stadium. I was shocked, disappointed and angered to see Gardai continue to beat people on the ground who no longer offered a threat.
    4. I’ve looked at as much video of today’s violence in Dublin as I can find on-line. The only direct evidence of Garda violence that I found is at 3.30 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPnoAY1wXfI
    5. I’ve seen direct video evidence of Gardai being attacked and stoned, and stones thrown at their horses.
    6. Anyone who calls for or organizes a street protest knows full well that it will attract parasitic groups who could not possibly gather large numbers under their own banner.

  5. Jason Michael McCann Says:

    Acht sure, Dearest Ferdinand, I shall cast my two pennies worth. ‘BBrian’ has a point, the Gardai were having a laugh with the stick action they were having. Yet I am not sure if I like much being referred to as a kid (Chuckle chuckle). You are perfectly correct that there needs to be a rethink on protest strategy among my colleague students. Eirigi do pose a serious threat to the objectives of every project they ‘join.’ It has been my misfortune to see them a number of times in action. We are aware that the police force in Ireland has a reputation for hard-handedness, therefore the parasitic actions of Eirigi and other such groups pose a serious threat to the safety of students and other placard holding pedestrians.

  6. J. Says:

    Colum, re: “I’ve looked at as much video of today’s violence in Dublin as I can find on-line. The only direct evidence of Garda violence that I found is at 3.30”

    Some more examples of violence that you might have missed from that video:

    4.21: Uniformed Guard pulls a person from the ground by their hair.

    5.34: Riot officer jabbing person with baton which is against regulations

    6.20: Riot police charge at crowd

    8.54: Horses charged into a crowd who pose no public order threat and are moving away

    9.17: Riot police assaults student with shield in unprovoked incidence. Superintendent steps in as soon as he is aware there is video camera.

    Over 1,200 have joined a facebook page calling for “public hearing on Garda brutality against students in Dublin” – http://www.facebook.com/#!/GardaAttackStudents


    • J,
      As I said, I’m quite demanding when it comes to police behaviour. Here’s the lansdowne road footage from 1995 to which I referred http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcdnzeoBJT4
      I made mention of it to establish my position on Garda conduct. The fact that the Gardai in 1995 were dealing with Nazi thugs is beside the point; people were hit who were no longer a threat. My point is I’m quite prepared to criticise the Gardai if I see wrongdoing.

      I could find very little on-line to indicate Garda misbehaviour at the recent demo. The impression from the ON-LINE material ONLY is of restrained behaviour under threat, stones, spitting and attack.

      You referred me to varous points in the video in which I did find evidence of assault. Ok, at 4.21 a person is pulled by the hair. I consider it minor and it happened after resistance. At 5.34 there seems to be either a jab or threat of a jab. Either way, it is minor. At 6.20 the Gardai are walking and clearly not charging. At 8.54 I accept the crowd were moving away and I’ve no idea why the horses were moved forward but again there is no evidence of a charge. The horses were at a canter. At 9.17 there is no evidence of assault. There is also no evidence that the senior officer’s intervention was prompted by the presence of a camera.

      ANYONE – Garda or demonstrator – against whom there is evidence should be charged. A more serious view should be taken of the Gardai because a great deal is expected of them. For now, here’s a question for you: Should all video footage be examined forensically to identify and charge all wrongdoers?

  7. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    “why the horses were moved forward”

    Reportedly they were in pursuit of a person who threw a stone at one of the horses.

    I have heard the views of several people who were present . All of them point the blame at the Eirigi element.
    Does anyone know how many had to be hospitalized? Evidently one had to get stitches to the head, but there seems to have been very few injuries (i.e. needing more than primary care).


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