Donegal protesters’ high profile brings recognition

Up to 150 Donegal people were among the thousands of people in Galway on the weekend to protest at the Labour Party conference.

Up to 150 Donegal people were among the thousands of people in Galway on the weekend to protest at the Labour Party conference.

Convoy haulier John McLaughlin of Donegal Action Against Austerity (DAAA) said he believed the demonstrations at the Labour conference and last month at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Dublin will encourage government parties to reconsider policy positions.

“They’re starting to see how much anger is coming from the people,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “People have had enough -- they’re getting more mobilised.” He was critical of people who dismissed protesters as “hooligans”.

“I was talking to a doctor from Galway out on the protest,” he said. “It’s all walks of life being affected here,” Mr. McLaughlin said. He spoke with an 83-year-old Galway woman who had used her bus pass to get to the protest.

The crowd of thousands that met in Eyre Square and marched to NUI Galway, where the party conference was held, was estimated at more than 5,000 people.

The Garda press office confirmed to the national media that gardaí had used pepper spray on some demonstrators. Mr. McLaughlin said he believed gardaí “panicked”, pointing out that one of the first people he saw sprayed was an RTÉ cameraman.

“I think they got a wee bit excited, to be honest with you,” he said. “There was no real battle with the gardaí. It was more pushing than anything else.” But the use of the spray annoyed the protesters, he admitted. He also asked why a private security company was employed and questioned their authority on public roads.

DAAA is meeting on Thursday. Mr. McLaughlin said he would like the group to organise further meetings around the county and meet with groups around the country in a non-aligned campaign.

DAAA has engaged in high-profile action. After DAAA’s Joe Murphy of Buncrana and others led a protest walk to Dublin, they appeared on The Late, Late Show the night before they protested at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis.

In Galway, Mr. McLaughlin said, “I was absolutely amazed at the amount of people who recognised us and came up and congratulated us on what we’re doing.”