TWO separate rallies are planned for Cork city centre this Saturday afternoon and organisers of both are hopeful of strong turnouts.
The first of Saturday’s gatherings will be to protest the Government’s decision to lift the temporary ban on evictions, and it will take place at 12.30pm in Parnell Place.
The second rally will see the group Cork Says No to Racism mark the United Nations World Anti-Racism Day, and will gather at 2pm at the City Library on the Grand Parade.
With political pressure mounting against Government parties to reverse the decision to lift the eviction ban at the end of the month, housing activists will meet in Parnell Place, beside the bus station, after midday on Saturday.
The Residential Tenancies Board has reported that 500 notices to quit will go live in Cork from April 1, placing more than 1,000 people locally on the frontlines of what looks set to be a national explosion of evictions.
Protesters intend to picket vacant buildings in Parnell Place on Saturday, properties which were sold by Cork City Council to Tetrarch Capital five years ago and which still remain idle.
The housing protest will be addressed by Cork renters who face eviction once the ban is lifted.
Socialist Party TD Mick Barry said he hoped Saturday’s housing protest would be only the first of many to take place across the country in the coming days.
“Tuesday night’s Dáil debate, Wednesday night’s Dáil vote and Saturday’s protest are all part of what needs to be a nationwide pushback against this reckless move.”
After the housing rally, this year’s Cork Says No to Racism march, which is held annually to coincide with the United Nations’ World Anti Racism Day, will gather outside the City Library at 2pm.
Joe Moore, co-ordinator of the march, said this year’s theme was to highlight that Cork is a diverse and inclusive city and to demand housing and healthcare for all.
“Cork Says No to Racism opposes the racism not only of the far right but also the racism of the State, whose victims are in the main Travellers and asylum seekers,” Mr Moore said.
Fionnuala O’Connell of the Cork Migrant Centre said that racism denies the humanity of others, and only diminishes the humanity of those who espouse racism.
“It’s about a shared humanity, it’s about loving fearlessly, it’s about the acknowledgement that I am not free until we are all free, and knowing that anything less than freedom for all is exploitation,” she said.
Ann Jones, who is a Traveller activist and is chair of Travellers of North Cork said Travellers knew all about racism in this country.
“Because of this, we understand what it feels like to be discriminated against, so we say no to racism.”
Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said Cork was an open, welcoming city that has always embraced diversity and does not tolerate discrimination.
“I urge the people of Cork to come out in large numbers on Saturday March 25 and send a strong message that Cork is a welcoming city with welcoming people who strongly believe that we all have a right to the same basic needs in life,” the Cork South Central TD said.
“Everyone is equal and everyone deserves the same opportunities and chances in life.”
Commenting on a favourite trope employed by the far right, Mary Crilly of the Sexual Violence Centre Cork criticised the “unvetted males” narrative which plays upon fear of sexual violence to demonise minorities.
“Gender based violence is a global systemic issue that affects all communities,” Ms Crilly said.
“It is unacceptable and it is incorrect to use this issue to shore up racism and hatred.”
Saturday’s Cork Says No to Racism rally will come three weeks after confrontations between anti-racism campaigners and anti-immigrant protesters led to a three-hour stand-off on the Grand Parade.
Those two clashing rallies saw at their height some 200 anti-immigrant demonstrators face off against approximately 500 anti-racism counter-demonstrators, with 20 gardaí standing between the sides.