Over the weekend a number of Rebels braved the hostile environment and dared to cross the border into the Kingdom to stand with our neighbouring Munster brethren in protest to the Hard Labour Party’s Árd Fheis which was taking place in Cill Airne. The following is a report on the demonstration from our man on the ground in the wilds of Ciarraí.
As I turned onto Market Square this weekend in Killarney to join my fellow countrymen and women in gathering for the protest outside INEC and the Labour Árd Fheis my initial feeling was WTF is this?! I had travelled down in a bus with other anti water charges activists from Cork City and even though I knew of very little community resistance (if any) to water charges and water meters in Killarney I still held some decent level of optimism for a good demonstration.
When I rounded the corner at around 11.40am this optimism was quickly lost.
Initially there was no visible leaders of the protest, there was no MC, no music as we gathered, no visible stewards to make enquiries about what the plans were. Instead groups of protesters who travelled from all over the country to support this event (some from distances a lot further than Cork) were greeted by about a half dozen lunatics with megaphones who had more in common with apocalyptic evangelists street preachers than with anti-water charges demonstrators. Funnily enough a number of these protesters were also interviewed by RTÉ as it seemed even they were struggling to find someone involved in organising the protest.
In fairness, the numbers for the protest seemed pretty decent and I reckon there was anything between 1,500 and 3,000 demonstrators. But this started to dwindle as we were sentenced to what seemed like a lifetime of speeches for our sins. Now I am not saying that the messages from the speakers were wrong or unimportant and I am not even having a go at the organisers for this one as we have been guilty of overdoing speeches in Cork also, but someone somewhere will have to draw a line and say how much more torture can we put people through and keep expecting them to turn out for protests. Realistically when you have that many speakers speaking for that long no one remembers any of what is said and a lot of people (including this disenchanted Corkman) will make for the high stool instead.
Upon absconding in to the nearest bar with a handful of fellow disappointed Corkmen we began to discuss what we had got ourselves into. I spoke to a man who had a big role to play in the hugely successful November 1st protest in Cork which must surely be the biggest public demonstration ever in that beautiful city and he said that on that day they had been set up since 9.00am waiting for protesters. I certainly don’t think our Kerry counterparts share the same commitment especially after a certain R2W official shot himself and the whole R2W movement in Kerry in the foot just weeks before the demo (previously pointed out in an article on this blog). Well this protest pointed out to me that he is not alone in the “misguided Kerrymen” category
The actual protest was worse than the gathering and the speeches. The organisers were now visible and coming to the fore but not to lead or take charge, instead they were here to tell us what the Gardaí wanted us to do? Rather than actually have the protest at the entry point for Labour delegates where we could of, I dunno, maybe caused some disruption to the Árd Fheis they decided it would be great to gather at the opposite side where we were never going to see any Labour party delegates. It wasn’t long before a small group of Rebels (Corkmen/women) went renegade though and tried to storm past the barriers. It was unsuccessful but to those who tried I wont name you but I commend you. We were also told the campaign anthem “Shove your water meters” was too provocative to shout as there was children around and at another point were asked to clear the road so cars could pass. I mean were we meant to be demonstrating or going to mass? I think last week when Ruth Coppinger was talking about “Father Ted” protests the Kerrymen must have missed the point.
So all in all in my opinion it was a pretty poor demo. However the craic was still had throughout Killarney town and I must thank the bars for their hospitality but seriously Kerry stick to the football and leave the revolution for the Rebels.