And it was my first. Yes, it’s true, I have never taken part in a public protest, until yesterday.
Hard to believe, considering I grew up in what I can safely term a “militant” country, and spent my teenage years in a post-1968 Paris. My parents and I moved back to Paris the Christmas following what has become known in France as “les Evénements de mai soizante-huit” (can be translated as “the Events of May 68”, as if no other “Events” happened around the world that year!... Typical French arrogance!). Throughout my secondary schooling in the 1970’s it was more than common place for pupils to join university students in a “strike” and march through the capital... by that time, most of the street cobble stones of the city, that has not been removed during May 68 to be thrown against the police, had been tarred over very thickly. Still I did not join in. I can’t say I always stayed safely in the classroom or the school library to study; I did my fair share of chatting away for hours in the school yard and enjoying the impromptu free time. I think that I do not like being roped into a conventional way of thinking, I do not appreciate my thinking being done for me, ideas imposed on my little brain. I have never joined a political party because I see more what any party could try to impose on me rather than what I could bring to it.
If you ask me to send a letter or an email, I will do so "my way", with my wording. But no protesting or marching ever! No militancy for me. No following the herd.
A few weeks ago, I did think of taking part in a march, the silent one, in support and memory of the ten’s of thousands of children who were abused in Irish Institutions. But I did not have enough personal conviction to publicly give such a reason to cancel a work meeting – had it been at a weekend, or an evening, I would have been there.
Yesterday was a Saturday. And yesterday, two simultaneous protests took place in Dublin, against the budget cuts to Our Lady’s Children Hospital in Crumlin that have resulted in ward and theatre closures. Enough is enough, and though I do not think my presence has made much difference, I was one extra person there, and everyone that afternoon added up to a nice little noisy crowd.
Several things struck me:
As I had previously seen on TV of similar protests, they were parents and children of course. But they were also older people, grandparents, showing that whole families are affected and concerned by this issue.
All were very well mannered. Yet the underlying level of anger was palpable. Some held posters made by the organisers, some had made their own. But the messages and the mood told the same story: this is an intolerable situation. What are € 9.6m when our bankers are being rescued to the tune of Billions? Where is the reassurance that no child will suffer at the hands of the state – a reassurance voiced again and again only a few weeks ago, following the Ryan Report?
The level of support from the passing cars was incredible. I was there for well over an hour, and I think that almost every driver that passed beeped his or her car horn. Even the ambulance drivers turned on there sirens for a couple of seconds as they went slowly by. I interpret this as a total disgust from the “general” public toward the way our current government is handling this issue.
Of course, they were the odd posters from what I would call more extreme political parties, and at least one trade union. But over all the people who were there seemed to be either from official parents groupings mainly concerned with the welfare of their children’s hospital, or simply (and mainly) parents, and grandparents, worried for the very lives of their children.
And the whole situation has reinforced a thought I have had ever since I first heard of the ward closures: “Thank God Cathal had the surgery last March, before budget cuts starting biting. Otherwise...” It does not bear thinking, and my heart goes to those children who are waiting for surgery, and their families.
It was an interesting experience, and another “first” I can put down to Cathal’s influence on me. This child is a major cause of challenge for me, and changes in me. I am so grateful for him being the way he is!
And to top it all off, a teddy with my personalised message is waiting to greet our TD’s and Senators at the gates of the Dial. If only one of them reads it, it is worth it.
And I am not militant? Who said?