More than 1,000 people marched on the streets of Cork city on Saturday afternoon calling for emergency action amid the current cost of living crisis.
Crowds gathered outside Brown Thomas on Patrick Street in the city centre on Saturday ahead of a march through the streets calling for an increase in the minimum wage and a decrease in rent prices, food, fuel and energy.
The protest was organised by the Cost of Living Coalition which also organised protests in Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Sligo.
The group, which is made up of trade unionists, student and pensioner organisations and opposition political parties, has urged the Government to take further action on the cost of living crisis.
Chants including “raise the wages, not the rents” and “What do we want? Equal pay. When do we want it? Now” could be heard in the city centre streets as people came out to have their voices heard on the issue.
The protest was attended by local trade union groups, including Fórsa, the INMO, CYM, Mandate, Communications Workers Union, Aontú, and the National Homeless and Housing Coalition, opposition party members, young people from the Cork Life Centre, former Debenhams employees, and members of the general public.
Also in attendance were representatives of the University College Cork (UCC) Students’ Union and the Munster Technological University (MTU) Students’ Union.
Speakers included Socialist Party TD Mick Barry, Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould, UCC Students’ Union rep Maeve Richardson, and Penny Dinners’ Caitriona Twomey.
Speaking on behalf of UCC Students’ Union, Maeve Richardson said that the current crisis has taken a hit on all of society, students included, some of whom she said are sleeping in cars as they cannot afford rent.
She also addressed how Irish students are paying the highest college fees in the EU, with many families supporting these students now struggling.
“This year, UCC had to open its food bank, alongside many other student unions and other organisations. In October, our food bank received over 130 users every day and was constantly running out of food.
We could only imagine what the situation is going to be like in the upcoming academic year. Students who are working full time, studying full time are still being locked out of education.
She said that people implying that students “just need to budget better” do not know what is going on in society and that investment is needed in public services.
“We are living through the biggest inflation increase in over 38 years,” she said, saying that “a major overhaul” is needed to make a change.
Socialist Party TD Mick Barry said that we are living through “a capitalist cost of living crisis”.
“The root cause is a system of greed and of profit. Working people are the people they’re [the Government] are trying to make carry the can. Workers who saved money during Covid are seeing their savings run out, are really worried about going back to school in August and are dreading heating their homes next winter.
“The low-paid and the poorest in society already are facing the terrible choice of heating or eating. Inflation is a one-sided class war against the majority of society and it’s time that we started fighting back,” he said.
Deputy Thomas Gould commended the over one thousand people who came out to send a message to the Government.
What we’re looking for is the Government to show a bit of leadership and listen to the people and seriously understand and try to help.
“People can’t put petrol or diesel in their cars or vans to get to work, to get to schools, to get to hospitals. There are more billionaires after the pandemic than there were before. How can that be? The rich are getting richer when ordinary people are struggling or finding it hard.
“This was a good start today. The people of Cork came out and said we want to sort this housing crisis, we want to sort this cost of living crisis,” he said.
Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners put a question to those in Government who she said “have the luxury of debating on how we survive on their wages”.
“The question is are you aware? And if you are aware like you assure us that you are aware, well then shame, shame on you for what you are doing to us, your people, the people that have votes and the people that can get out there and change things. We just need to be looked after. They need to listen to what’s happening here today, to know that nobody is going away unless they die of hunger or stress.
“If we don’t look after each other and get ourselves together through this, it is not going to happen any other way so we must come back out again. We must let the Government know that we can't put up with it anymore, that we’re hurt,” she said.