The number suggested beforehand was 10, 000. On the day, as state workers streamed up O’Connell at, the target jumped to 50,000. By the end, as the estimates soared past twice that, it was clear this wasn’t going to be just a piece of street theater by the public sector unions. The Irish public were taking the opportunity to express their anger, their frustration and their distrust of the Government they’d re-elected a bare year ago.
By force of numbers the public were signaling that, maybe for the first time in their lives, they wanted to be part of the political process. For a generation, worrying about what politicians said, did, thought or knew has been a minority interest. Most people got on with their lives assured that as long as their lives were getting better not worse they could presume the right choices were being made.
The problem with that, as Fergal pointed out in his Waiting for Obama post, comes when you realise what sort of nation we get when we abdicate our duties to look after it. One where the machinery of the state is turned over to interests who understand its power to protect and enrich.
One where sincerity is derided and deception is a requirement to be taken seriously. One where public speech is used to obfuscate rather than enlighten.
Today, in a slightly unfocused way, we the public- the voters- have taken the first steps towards a different country. It will be a less comfortable life. Demanding other people are held responsible is easy. Taking responsibility yourself is hard.
But if we can get there, it will be a better country to live in and a better place to be born into. I have hope.