As I turned left onto Parnell Street from Marlborough Street I could see the crowds. The Garden of Remembrance was the gathering point but the throngs of people stretched back to the Gate Theatre. The usual suspects were well present and correct. I consider myself one of the usual suspects – if there is a protest I am likely to be present. I don’t wear a high viz jacket advertising the ‘Worker’s Hammer’ newspaper, like my fellow serial protesters however. In any case we were massively outnumbered by the INMO and PNA staff. Today’s gathering was a march to support the two week old strike action by members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association.
Over the past fortnight the nurses have engaged in three, one day work stoppages. They are protesting for better pay and for the government to resolve the retention crisis in the nursing profession.
The Irish public health system has been run into the ground by the right wing Fine Gael government and their coalition partners Fianna Fail for decades now. Nurses are fleeing the country in their thousands because of the massive strain they are deliberately placed under. Patients lives are at risk because of hospital conditions. Fine Gael (which is lead by slithering, snake oil salesman Leo Varadkar) is happy with the status quo as in their neo-liberal bubble, the solution is to privatise the system for a USA style health system. Incredibly Varadkar is a doctor, so his contempt for patient safety shows what a truly awful human being he is.
With three consecutive days of strike planned for next week the government refuses to engage in any way with the nurses. The government line is that the nurses’ unions signed a public pay deal, and that if it gives in to demands for increased pay by nurses then all public servants will want increases. The nurses have been providing emergency cover during the strike, and argue that the impossible working conditions and appalling pay have left them no choice but to strike.
The public overwhelmingly supports the nurses with estimates showing approximately 80% support.
The government will pay dearly for its intransigence in the local and general elections this year. The public view seems to be that if any patient dies unnecessarily during the strike then ‘Dr’ Leo Varadkar (I put the doctor in inverted commas because I cannot fathom how a medical doctor could betray his training in the manner that he has – he’s a bit of a Dr Shipman is our Leo) and the Minister for Health (chocolate teapot Simon Harris) will have blood on their hands.
The atmosphere was upbeat. I heard many nurses express relief that there was such a turnout – estimates indicate that 45,000 people were marching, which is an astronomical figure. Opposition politicians were present – Brid Smith and the Sinn Fein spokesperson on health Louise O’Reilly.
Last Saturday I attended a show called ‘The Bear’ where before the show began a gentleman stood up and began haranguing the audience about the dangers of an EU Army. He was quickly hushed up. He was present again today – this time with a home made sign about the dangers of an EU army. He is admirably consistent in his causes.
It was nice to be marching in the middle of O’Connell Street – Ireland’s main street – once again. You only get this view while on a protest.
The march made its way to government buildings. The crowds watching were loud in their support.
I guess we all understand that a nurse is someone who greets you as you enter the world, and is likely to be close by, as you depart the world. I wholeheartedly support their action and suspect that public support will remain steadfast.
This strike is of Fine Gael’s making. Remember this come election time.