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Water, abortion rights and determined sit-ins: 2014 was a year of Irish protests

You guys were not taking anything sitting down in 2014.

IT’S BEEN A YEAR with an unprecedented number of protests as Irish people took to the streets in anger over economic hardship, incoming water charges, abortion legislation and more.

Call us complacent no more, Irish people took a stand in 2014 and it looks like, in one case at least, it made a significant difference. This is the year in protests…

Mount Carmel sit-in

The earliest protest of note was a sit-in staged by workers at Mount Carmel Private Hospital. They were concerned about how long public patients they were treating would be forced to wait when moved to other hospitals.

The employees were, of course, also worried about outstanding wages and redundancy they were owed. Though the sit-in ended, the dispute over pay continued right through the year, with nurses claiming they were owed a total of €60,000.

Save Mount Carmel Hospital Dublin 14 Save Mount Carmel Hospital Dublin 14

The Paris Bakery sit-in

Speaking of sit-ins, we can’t forget the Paris Bakery workers. In June, 25 of them staged a 19 day sit-in after their bosses failed to pay them some €100,000 in wages. Eventually Revenue stepped in to wind down the company, giving them access to the Insolvency Fund.

Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Water charges

Oh yes, the big one. These protests started out in little pockets around the country -mainly local residents who were opposed to the controversial water charges demonstrating as workers tried to install the meters.

Residents protesting in Raheny in June. Dublin Says No Dublin Says No

Remember this lady? Enda Kenny doesn’t know where the hell she was born

Galway Advertiser / YouTube

Soon, a strong garda presence appeared at the protests, which were starting to gain momentum – and media attention.

John Lyons John Lyons

Dublin Says No Dublin Says No

In October, we saw the first of the mass protests across the country with tens of thousands of people banding together to tell the government “We won’t pay”.

clonmel A protest against the charges in Clonmel on 18 October. Paddy Healy Paddy Healy

In by far the largest protest in the country in the last number of years, some 120,000 people turned up.

They took a controversial turn in November when Tánaiste Joan Burton was trapped in her car for hours after attending a graduation ceremony in Jobstown, Dublin.

There was criticism of the protest, as footage showed clashes with police and one man throwing a brick at a patrol car after Tánaiste had left the area. However anti-water charge activists insisted that this rowdy element were not part of the protest, which they said was peaceful.

Determined to prove this peaceful element of protest was present in the area, 200 women (and a couple of men) held a silent vigil outside Tallaght Garda Station in late November – something that baffled local gardaí.

The incident with Joan Burton started a trend whereby protesters would turn up at various events high profile ministers were attending to cause disruption. At one, a woman tried to block the Taoiseach’s car and was pushed into a bollard by gardaí, causing an absolute uproar.

edward982 / YouTube

The government very quickly realised that this movement against the water charges was not going away and prompted Alan Kelly to announce changes that would reduce the cost of water for families – at least until 2018.

That wasn’t the end of it though. Tens of thousands still took to the streets weeks later to tell the government they will not be paying even the reduced charges. Members of a Detroit-based group campaigning for affordable water in the US were among the crowd of more than 30,000 people outside the Dáil on 10 December.

The Garth Brooks Saga

It’s something that you may have forgotten about but at the time, it was considered a national scandal. Garth Brooks was denied permission to hold five concerts in a row in Croke Park and he decided not to come at all. Fans were devastated and, yes, there were protests about it to encourage the council to change its mind and to urge the government to intervene.

Sarah Bennett Sarah Bennett

The Israel-Palestine conflict

In July, large numbers of people took part in ‘die-in’ demonstrations, holding names of people who had been killed in Gaza. It came at a time when the death toll rose to over 1,000 in renewed conflict.

UN’s human rights chief also said at the time that Israel may have committed war crimes in its offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

Sam Boal / Photocall Sam Boal / Photocall / Photocall

A number of cities and towns across the country also held marches at the time to raise awareness of the tense situation in the region.

The controversial Kilkenny bridge

It may have been a very local issue, but protesters in Kilkenny managed to grab the country’s attention for a few weeks during the summer. Two of them were even (briefly) arrested. They were opposed to the construction of a new bridge under the controversial Central Access Scheme.

Niall Carson Niall Carson

Greyhound protests

Here’s another one you may have forgotten about – the protests by workers at Greyhound Recycling in Dublin. The dispute arose over proposed cuts to the workers’ salaries of 35%.

Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

In September workers eventually voted to end the 14 week lockout following negotiations with the company.

The 8th Amendment

Following revelations about a woman who was denied an abortion in Ireland after she was raped and had become suicidal, hundreds of people in Ireland made their voices heard.

Pro choice activists said this case showed that the new abortion legislation was continuing to fail women. They called for a repeal of the 8th Amendment, which acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and guarantees to defend this, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.

Marches took place all over the world in response to the story about the suicidal woman who, in the end, had been forced to deliver her child by Caesarean section.

In the aftermath, an anti-abortion rally was also held outside Leinster House as the Pro Life Campaign sought to express solidarity with the baby at the centre of the case, who was being treated in a neo-natal intensive care unit.

Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Later in the year, a small group of pro-choice campaigners took a train to Belfast and back, bringing packs of abortion pills not available here back with them. In a stunt aimed at again highlighting the need to repeal the 8th Amendment, some of the campaigners, including Anti Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger, took the pills. They said they wanted to show how harmless the pills are, with Coppinger quipping “I haven’t died yet” after swallowing one.

Michelle Hennessy / Michelle Hennessy / /


In October, farmers blockaded meat processing factories for 24 hours and in November for 48 hours, protesting the gap between Irish and UK cattle prices.

Photocall Ireland Photocall Ireland

They had even protested outside Burger King and McDonald’s  earlier in the autumn.

Finbarr O'Rourke Finbarr O'Rourke

The two sides eventually struck a deal to work together, though farmers said they were not giving up on the price issue so easily.

LIVEBLOG: Thousands of anti-water charge protesters arrive in Dublin>

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