By Christine O’Mahony
The Cost of Living Coalition have organised many protests in the past, not only in Dublin, but in Cork, Sligo, Limerick, Belfast and Galway. However, the protest on the 24th of September was highlighted as the most important as it was the pre-budget protest. Supporters from all walks of life, marched from the Garden of Remembrance to the Dáil.
The Cost of Living Coalition, which was formed in May 2022, consists of politicians and activists from Sinn Féin & People Before Profit, Officers from Student Unions, members from Trade Unions, workers from all different classes and pensioners. Their main aim is to ensure everyone survives this cost of living crisis and that the budget delivers for the people.
The Cost of Living Coalition had made the following demands: 1) control energy costs, 2) protect incomes, 3) make housing affordable, 4) invest in public services and 5) share the wealth. Other groups protesting had their own demands, such as Student Unions, who wanted purpose built student accommodation, investment in mental health services, increase in the PHD stipends and the abolishment of the student contribution charge. Disability groups demanded an increase in the disability allowance as they have been through a cost of living crisis for decades.
It was estimated that around 15,000-20,000 took part in the march, which the organisers labelled as “people power”. There were many notable speakers at the protest, including Seamus Dooley of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions who was not satisfied with the 80c increase in the minimum wage. Beth O’Reilly from Union of Students Ireland (USI), who detailed the Student Accommodation crisis, noted that students were sleeping in tents and cars. They also called for the abolishment of third-level fees.
12 year old Sophie Mulvany, daughter of Bernard Mulvany, who is the founder of Access for All, touched the hearts of many protesters there as she spoke about her experience as a disabled wheelchair user. Sophie asked the government, “I want to ask you, when you were 12, did you know what a housing crisis was? Did you know what a climate crisis was? Adults need to start acting like adults. How dare you not protect our future?”. Sophie detailed that she has friends who call a hotel or hub as their homes and that she is very aware of the housing crisis, despite how young she is.
Other speakers included Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, PBP leader, Richard Boyd Barrett and Fr Peter McVerry, who asked young people “why would they stay in Ireland?”. There has been a recent debate about whether young people should emigrate or stay, as there are better and cheaper opportunities elsewhere. Nurses, to name one group, are finding that they are paid better abroad compared to working in Ireland.
The organisers claimed that if the budget does not deliver, they will be marching again in nearly every county on Saturday 12th of November. When the budget was revealed to the people in October, the Coalition was of the opinion that the budget would leave most people worse off in 2023 and decided to go ahead with their 12th of November protest plans. Already, there are local protests planned in Galway, Limerick and Dublin 8. Students across the country have organised their own protests, which will take place on the 13th of October, where they plan to walk out of lectures at 11:11am, protesting the cost of living and demanding better for students.