Iraq: 15 February – Repbulic of Ireland – Biggest protest in 20 years

15 February was an historic day in Ireland. The anti-war demonstration in Dublin was not the biggest in Irish history (in 1979 the trade unions held a march of over 300,000 in Dublin demanding tax reform) but it was one of the biggest and its political significance cannot be understated.

15 February. No to war in Iraq. cwi reports from around the world. Ireland.

Biggest protest in 20 years

Over the last number of years most demonstrations have ranged from a few hundred to the low thousands and that includes recent demos against Bush’s war plans for Iraq. Yesterday was the first generalised mass mobilisation in 20 years. A fledging anti-war movement called the demonstration and the huge response says a lot about the consciousness and anger in society at the prospect of war on Iraq.

Official police estimates indicate 100,000 were on the protest. However that would seem to be an underestimate. O’Connell Street in Dublin is reputed to be the widest street in Europe. It is 600 metres long. It was completely packed from one side to the other and the front of the march was nearly a further mile ahead. It is impossible to say but certainly 150,000 would be closer to the real figure. As a portion of the population, the turnout seems to be at least equal to anywhere else and bigger than most.

Shannon Airport furore

A number of factors combined to bring such a huge mobilisation at this stage. The huge public awareness of the use of Shannon airport by significant numbers of the US military on their way to the Gulf and the craven support by the Irish government of Bush’s line was a key factor.

Most people wanted to protest and felt that this war could be stopped. That combined with the international character of 15 Feb were the key factors bringing so many people onto the streets.

Most activists expected 15,000 – 30,000 but were gob smacked when 5 times that number turned up.

There was a very good but determined mood and certainly there is massive potential for many to become active in the anti-war movement. The next national demonstration is called for 1 March at Shannon airport.

There was a real mix of people on the march. There were a lot of young people but also people aged from 30 – 70 years (perhaps people returning to activity after an absence of a number of years).

The Socialist Party got a very warm response. Our stalls beforehand were swamped and we sold many copies of our paper and political journal. Different contingents mixed together because of the scale of the march. One of the Sunday papers referred to the mood created in a certain section of the march by the "socialist megaphoners". That was the Socialist Party: we had seven members working with megaphones and it had a big impact. Our TD (member of parliament), Joe Higgins, was one of the speakers and although none of the speakers were heard by the whole demonstration, he got a particularly strong response when he demanded that the trade unions, through industrial action, could immediately end the use of Shannon airport by the US government regardless of the craven position of the Irish government.

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