On May the first, Dublin Grassroots Network had the largest libertarian demonstration ever seen in Ireland. As the EU leaders met in Farmleigh house, over 4,000 people occupied Fitzwilliam Square, had a party on Gardiner Street and marched against the right wing agenda of the new EU. The media hype that preceded the event had to be seen to be believed. In the month preceding the event the press carried bizarre and fabricated stories about dangerous anarchists intent on burning Dublin to the ground.
In another first, the Late Late Show featured anarchists explaining why they intended to march. The look on Pat Kennys face when he realised the woman he was interviewing was actually an anarchist caused many of us to chuckle.
A month later, we were on the go again, this time heading down to Shannon (some of us cycled!) to protest at the arrival of George Bush. Unfortunately, though the majority of the Irish people are against the war, Shannon airport is still being used by the US military on their way to Iraq. It wasn't our first time at Shannon, and neither will it be the last. As long as the US persists in its occupation of Iraq, we will oppose the use of Shannon airport as a military base.
Before the Bush visit we took part alongside the Campaign Against the Rascist Referendum (CARR) in campaigning in the citizenship referendum, and were disappointed but not too surprised when a huge majority of the Irish population accepted this racist proposal. The rise of intolerance and racism is perhaps the most ugly side of Irish society today.
In June there was another first, we rented an office in Dublin. The lack of meeting space is a major problem for any group trying to organise itself and although the office costs us a lot, it makes political activity much easier. In the next year, on the first Sunday of each month we will be showing political films and documentaries there, as well as using it for our normal discussions and meetings
In October, we spoke at the Irish Social Forum and later that month, again as part of the Dublin Grassroots Network, we helped organise a demonstration against the Less Lethal Weapons Conference.
This year some of us, unfortunately, had to spend time attending court cases. There is a definite trend to criminalise protest, with more and more protesters being arrested often on spurious charges. Just before May Day three English anarchists were arrested near an abandoned building. Two of them were forced to stay in Dublin for six months while they waited for their trial. Happily the case was thrown out for lack of evidence, but in a sense thanks to the truly draconian bail conditions, the activists had already been punished. This use of the court system is cynical in the extreme. On another pessimistic note, all but one of the police who were shown on RTE news beating Reclaim the Streets protesters were, astoundingly, found by a jury to be not guilty of assault. The mind boggles. We were delighted that Mary Kelly did not have to serve prison time for her action against the US military machine in Shannon. The other Shannon defendants will be facing the courts again shortly, as will some of those arrested after the May Day demonstrations on the Navan road.
The year wasn't all hard work. We attended two Grassroots Gatherings, one in Cork and one in Belfast. The next Grassroots Gathering is in Dublin so those of us living in Dublin will be busy helping to organise that. During the summer some of us went to the Anarchist Summer Camp, for a gentle weekend of relaxation by the beautiful mountains of Mourne.
Last year was quite busy and this year probably will be as well. One development we really like is the 'seomra spraoi' initiative (see article elsewhere). A year ago it would have been hard to see this coming together, let's see what happens by this time next year!
This edition is No84 published in Jan 2005