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Wednesday 19 December 2018

I'M AN ACADEMIC AND A DAD - I MUST MAKE A STAND FOR MY KIDS' FUTURE

LAST night I slept on the street outside the Central Bank as part of the occupy Dame Street protest. As I did it, it seemed like an extraordinary thing to do, and with the howling wind, the howling drunks and the howling ambulances, I sometimes wondered what I was doing there. But these are extraordinary times, and it is time for ordinary people to start doing extraordinary things.

The occupy Dame Street movement takes its lead from the action on Wall Street which has spread across America and Europe. These are extraordinary times across the globe.

I lecture in sociology and one of the most important lessons is to notice that societies have patterns or structures, providing reasonable stability over the years. But, occasionally there are rapid changes, which transform our world. In these times things can change for the worse as well as the better; these are times in which our actions really matter.

Societies are being held to ransom by international markets, by investors and by private banks. What has happened in Ireland is about to happen in Italy and Spain, and, probably, France.

Our governments have failed us by neglecting to regulate these businesses. 100pc loans on ponzi-scheme houses is something the state should have intervened against. Yet, rather than protecting the citizens from the fall-out of these bank failures, the government has insisted that we, the taxpayers, should pick up the bill.



DEBT

From 2006, our national debt has risen from 30 billion to over 150 billion, and still rising. Seventy billion of this has gone to the banks, and every month, the state borrows more to repay bondholders -- private investors in banks.

This is completely unjust, as it shifts private debt onto public shoulders. Whereas ordinary people must pay their bills and mortgage, the rich and powerful banks and investment funds get bailed out by you and me and our children.

To pay for this, the government is running an 'austerity' programme, mainly in terms of cuts in public services. More cuts means less money spent, means less business, means more redundancies, means longer dole queues -- a vicious cycle which creates real suffering, and a bleak future.

Recessions happen. But this is not just a recession. This is a state abandoning its duties to its people in order to pay the debts of rich capitalists. And the election has changed nothing.

It's the injustice and stupidity of the bailout that motivate me to protest. Our first protest was marching through our town, Fermoy in Cork. We hoped other towns would join us, but they didn't.

Nonetheless, this initial protest got us connected, better educated and more committed. In Spain, Italy and Greece protests against austerity have been spectacular and influential. Why is Ireland different?

I have two children, aged ten and five. In WWI there was a famous poster of a man by a fireside being asked by his children: "What did you do in the great war, daddy?" He's stumped.

This bailout will be repaid by our children, and the austerity will shape their lives. I don't want to be that guy.



COSTUMES

Yesterday, my friends and I joined the camp occupying Dame Street. We dressed up in burglar costumes, and ran through the capital. Are we mad? No, we're reminding people that the most extraordinary crime is still taking place. Hopefully our antics will spread the word, and make people realise that the time for ordinary solutions is past.

If we don't take the extraordinary action of protesting, it's just business as usual. Interestingly, anyone I encounter during these protests always supports us, from gardai to passer-bys. Sometimes I think that all Irish people realise the injustice and the stupidity of what's going on. But we suspect our neighbours are duped. So we don't take a stand, for fear we'd stand alone. We're rightly cynical about our political system, but sometimes we're too cynical about what we can do as citizens.

Dr Tom Boland is a lecturer in Sociology at WIT

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