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Ireland require some French whine spirit

by Pauline Volvert

Striking is engraved in French History. From May 1968 to 2010, millions of French citizens have taken to the streets in protest against the government, a new law or a firm. Lots of them have won their fight and some have lost. French history has always been livened up by a perpetual fight for better social conditions. In France, there has always been and there will always be a spirit of revolution, a desire for change or at least some hope of making a difference.

We have seen in November with the strikes against the retirement reform that this spirit is still there. The unions guide the workers to get what they want. Politicians feel the pressure and usually drop their plans. When France comes down through the streets, it’s like 1789 and 1871 happening again. The public fully utilizes its right to protest and strongly makes its opinion heard.

The left movement is very strong right now because a lot of people can’t stand Sarkozy’s politics anymore. Some journalists say it’s not about the age of retirement but it is a protest against the presidency itself. Students and workers are protesting in good numbers but it seems the movement is fading, and for this time at least, it won’t succeed.

While the sight of picket signs and angry activists are becoming more commonplace in Ireland, the right to protest isn’t protected with the same gusto as it is in France, with many Irish people believing that strike or demonstrative action harms more than it helps. Last June for example, ICTU (Irish Congress of Trade unions) agreed to suspend their members’ right to strike for four years to allow the economy to recover. For those members, that means the suppressing of thousands of jobs, a freeze on wages and rationalization in the department of public services). The deal, known as the Cork Park Agreement, was among the worst accepted in Europe in response to the financial crisis.

This deal has cut members’ salaries by up to 15 per cent. ICTU have claimed that this was the best solution as they tried to repress the movements of strike, and ignored the protests. The line that Brian Cowen used to persuade the unions to accept the deal was, “If you say no, what’s next is going to be worse than ever.” Moreover, the unions said clearly that they wouldn’t be fighting for the defense of work conditions and the salaries. The Irish Independent points out that a debt of 77 billion euro must be paid by the end of the year so the salaries could be cut way before 2014.

That kind of agreement wouldn’t even be considered in France; that would be a shame and even the notion of such a plan could lead to people burning cars and vandalizing buildings. Here we can see the difference between Ireland and France. Without condoning destructive behavior, in Ireland, many of the people have lost their revolutionary minds and are subjected to a government too busy to struggle with its debts, to care about its fellow citizens. In France there are debates every single day and if the president is not listening to the unions, the students or even the left politicians, the journalists are there to ensure that the people’s voice will be heard.

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