CAHWT on ICTU “bully boy” tactics during Saturday’s demonstrations

Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes activists report instances of harassment by a number of ICTU stewards and Gardaí at last Saturday’s demonstrations

In the aftermath of last Saturday’s demonstrations called by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions a clear picture emerged that a number of ICTU stewards and the Gardaí engaged in a policy of harassment, physical intimidation and exclusion of CAHWT activists.

Campaign activist Michael O’Brien commented:

“The CAHWT publicised the demonstrations in advance with its own material and mobilised sizeable contingents on all of the demonstrations. The title of the day of action was ‘lifting the burden’. For many working people the property tax will be a significant burden and therefore it was correct to attempt to make resistance to the property tax a key theme of the day.

“On the day the campaign distributed or attempted to distribute a leaflet to rank and file union members who turned out. The leaflet encouraged them to do what they could to raise the issue of the property tax within their union at branch and conference level and initiative or support motions that would win their union to a position of opposing the property tax and support the objectives of the CAHWT.

“Sensitive to our intentions and the possibility of being challenged for their inaction in the face of austerity the ICTU leadership through a number of their stewards and the Gardaí sought to marginalise the CAHWT and impede the participation of its activists on the demonstrations. The Gardaí in Dublin diverted part of the CAHWT contingent away from the main body of the demonstration and prevented individual activists from rejoining the crowd at the end. We have collected first hand testimonies from participants (see below). “

“The treatment of our campaign which represents the most significant anti-austerity struggle in the state over the last year shows that the ICTU leadership fear the example of a militant fighting approach being taken up from within the ranks of the movement. They pretend that the booing they have received at previous demonstrations is orchestrated by small minority elements when the reality it has been a spontaneous expression of frustration and anger by ordinary union members.

“Regardless of these bully boy tactics the debate about the need for the whole of the union movement to back our campaign will take place at a range of union conferences in the coming months as ordinary trade union members who are also active in CAHWT have brought motions to their union branches. We will not allow the ICTU leadership to keep a lid on the discontent within it ranks when it comes to their awful position on the property tax as expressed by David Begg yesterday.”


Here follows a selection of first hand testimony from a number of activists:

Eileen Gabbett from Dublin West:

“We were at the side of the route , opposite the Jurys Inn. Just as the parade started , this guy walks past and he started shouting No Way we wont pay , etc , the Garda just in front of us stood aside and told us quick get in there or something to that effect , so we jumped in , and dozens more behind us….. and off we went . We sang and chanted etc all the way as far as Merrion Square where I thought we would be turning right but there were barricades up and any way the band and float were going straight on ….. and we followed . By the time we got to Holles Street it soon became obvious that we had been fooled.

“We then turned back and walked back down to the corner where we had been misled Where there were barricades blocking our way from rejoining the parade ,We were told that we could join the parade at the end or walk around the Mont Clare Hotel and join in at the end there….. We decided to stay where we were and hang the banners from the barricades. James put up some pics taken there. Eventually we were allowed up, when they removed the barricades and coincidentally coincided with the end of the speeches… Ordinary people were on the platform ,and the elite unionists were already leaving the area, they didn’t even stay to listen to their own members…. James was told by the Garda at the barricade that they were given orders by the ICTU not to allow the property tax group up …. “

Joanne Pender from South Kildare:

“We joined the march at Christchurch as agreed, we saw a gap in the road where other CAHWT members were. There seemed to be other Dublin area banners and yellow and black placards so we stayed there until the march started.

“We didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about where we were in the march, there were some Socialist Party flags in front of us, some union flags behind us, a lot of CAHWT around us, nothing unusual going on, lots of chanting from CAHWT as far as I could see.

“When we got to Merrion square we were led straight ahead and then the barriers were put up on the road behind us, at which point we saw union flags taking a right turn where we had gone straight on.

“When we reached the top of the street we turned right on to a road that was open to traffic, very surprised we stopped and asked the Gardai what was going on, we got no answer.

“People started to go through the gates of the park. The Gardai closed the gates and stood there for a few minutes. I asked one of the Guards what had happened to the route of the march, he said the stage was on the other side of the park, I asked what are we doing here then, he didn’t answer. They then opened up the gates of the park after a few minutes. One of the ladies that was with us asked one of the Gardai why they had done that, he replied “because we’re bored”!!!.

“I explained that we had children with us, we had elderly people, we are not sure what has happened here but how do we get back on track. He said that we can go through the park. I asked him if the gates would be closed like they had done here for a while, he said that we’d have to just take the risk and see.”

Councillor Cieran Perry from Cabra:

“The behaviour of the ICTU stewards was disgraceful. There were numerous attempts to remove our people and banners. Our stewards told them in no uncertain terms that we would be matching. Unfortunately because our agreed meeting point was also where the unions decided to meet we didn’t have all our groups together as we had expected. Nobody could have expected the reaction of the ICTU stewards.”

Francis McCafferty from Donegal who attended the Sligo demonstration:

“What happened in Sligo was disgraceful. The Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal campaigns met at a common point around the corner from the main starting point. There must have been a good 250 of us. We then went as a contingent to the main starting point. As the march started we were blocked by a gang of stewards 3 deep across the road. who stood with their backs to us. We were not allowed to move until the entire march had departed.

“The reason was clear. The rally was in a very confined space (maybe they weren’t too confident about the numbers) and it was therefore impossible for us to get to the front near the platform with our placards – ‘ICTU: Support the people not the Labour Party’.

“The collusion of the Gardaí was obvious. When IMPACT official Richard Carruthers was heckled, two Gardai raced through the crowd to the lone heckler. There was another incident with the Gardaí which will probably go further.”

“We had a full bus and several car-loads but very few got to even hear the speakers. Many at the end were disillusioned and were saying ‘Is that it?’.”

James Fleming from Dublin West:

“We were following the route of the march past the park at Merrion Square when we were blocked off before Mount Street. Some people tried to go through the park, but it became clear that exits were blocked off there too by Gardai. So we turned around to find ourselves blocked off from returning towards Clare St. to the rest of the march which was continuing up towards Government buildings. When I approached a Garda to say that we were obviously peaceful protesters which were part of the main march only a moment ago, he said ‘we are under instructions from ICTU organisers not to let you through’. Some other people were being let through the barriers, only campaign protesters were restricted.”

East Wall activist:

” It was clear that the attitude towards CAHWT wasn’t just about our positioning on the march but that we were not welcome at all .” ” I arrived late carrying the East Wall banner , rolled up but noticeably a yellow campaign one. I was jostled by stewards and an attempt made to stop me crossing the road to join the assembly point “

“Also , some of those attending from East Wall said afterwards : “It felt like the unions didn’t want us there” – these were community activists and residents who had supported previous trade union marches against cuts in the community sector and felt snubbed by Saturdays elitism. “


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