'People must protest': Those worried about cost of living urged to take to the streets

The Cork Cost of Living Campaign has united opposition TDs, anti-poverty campaigners, housing campaigners, student unions, trade unionists, disability-rights campaigners, and others. They have organised a protest in the city for Saturday, September 17.
'People must protest': Those worried about cost of living urged to take to the streets

Speakers attending a Cork Cost of Living Campaign press conference in Blackpool Community Centre (from left) Thomas Gould, TD; Orla Christian, FUSS, Families Unite for Services & Support; Mick Barry, TD; Caitríona Twomey; Gary Baus, Cork branch, National Homeless & Housing Coalition. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“PEOPLE power in massive numbers” will be needed if measures to tackle the cost-of-living crisis are to be introduced, say organisers of an upcoming protest in Cork.

The Cork Cost of Living Campaign has united opposition TDs, anti-poverty campaigners, housing campaigners, student unions, trade unionists, disability-rights campaigners, and others. They have organised a protest in the city for Saturday, September 17.

“We’re appealing to the people of Cork City, county, and beyond to come to the Grand Parade for this event, because we’ve seen the shocking increases in the price of gas and electricity announced in the last week,” Socialist Party TD for Cork North Central, Mick Barry, said at a press conference yesterday.

“This will force huge numbers of people to make the choice between heating and eating this winter,” he said.

Anti-poverty campaigner Caitríona Twomey said people are “hurt beyond measure” by the struggle to make ends meet. “They cannot even put it into words how upset, how anxious, how fearful they are of what this winter is going to bring to them,” she said.

Ms Twomey urged people to take to the streets on Saturday week. The protest will assemble on Grand Parade at 2pm and march through town.

“It’s a matter for people to come out and to let them know that they’re worried about themselves, they’re worried about each other, they’re worried about how they’re going to put food on the table, keep the roof over their heads, pay their bills,” she said.

Ms Twomey, who runs Cork Penny Dinners, said the charity is seeing a significant rise in presentations and “lots and lots of new faces” seeking assistance.

“It hurts them to have to come to us as well, so, again, we have to step in and allay their fears and tell them it’s OK, they’re doing the right thing,” she said.

Some people, Ms Twomey said, are struggling to afford personal items, such as sanitary products and underwear, and are turning to the charity.

Ms Twomey said it is harrowing to see children presenting to Cork Penny Dinners with their parents.

“When we have little children coming to our doors… that’s not right and you have to smile and pretend they’re in a shop or a restaurant or something like that,” Ms Twomey said

Caitríona Twomey speaking at a Cork Cost of Living Campaign press conference in Blackpool Community Centre. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Caitríona Twomey speaking at a Cork Cost of Living Campaign press conference in Blackpool Community Centre. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Also in attendance at yesterday’s press conference ahead of the protest was Cork mother Orla Christian, whose son, Michael, has complex needs due to a rare genetic syndrome.

Ms Christian, who spoke on behalf of the Families Unite for Services and Support (FUSS) group, highlighted the struggles of parents who have children with disabilities.

“Families like ours are in dire straits. Crisis after crisis within the HSE has forced us to seek private therapies.

“Michael needs physiotherapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy and each month we pick which he needs more,” she said.

“Again and again, our contribution as carers goes overlooked and our basic needs unmet.

“A lot of complex families like mine have to attend Dublin hospitals four times a year or more, which only adds to the spiralling costs.”

Ms Christian said the carer’s benefit is insufficient and that families consulted by FUSS are “terrified” of this coming winter.

“We are cancelling direct debits for bills to ensure that food is prioritised,” Ms Christian said.

“We are cancelling medical appointments up the country we can no longer afford to pay for because the car needs fixing or the car needs diesel or petrol.

“We are trying to factor in the costs of winter hospitalisations and car-park fees to the family budget, while every day we are squeezed more and more,” she said.

“Families cannot keep going like this. We need the Government to stand up and actually listen,” she added.

Gary Baus, who is a member of the Cork Branch of the National Homeless and Housing Coalition (NHHC), also spoke at the press conference.

“The biggest impact from the rising cost of living on our wages are the crippling rents, crippling mortgages,” he said.

Gary Baus, Cork branch, National Homeless & Housing Coalition, speaking at a Cork Cost of Living Campaign press conference in Blackpool Community Centre. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Gary Baus, Cork branch, National Homeless & Housing Coalition, speaking at a Cork Cost of Living Campaign press conference in Blackpool Community Centre. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Mr Baus called on the Government to introduce a range of short-term measures, including a rent freeze and a ban on evictions to help “stop the flow into homelessness”, and also long-term measures, such as bringing more derelict properties back into use and a referendum on inserting a right to housing into the Constitution.

Also among the organisers of the upcoming protest is Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, Thomas Gould, who implored people to support the protest.

“We want everyone to come along on the 17th at 2pm, because a lot of times campaigns are specific to one group, but the cost-of-living crisis cuts right across all society,” he said.

“If people want change and if people want the Government to help, they must get onto the street: That’s the key here.

“We need to get people out and send a message to this Government that people are really hurting.”

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