Rossport Solidarity Camp and Shell to Sea campaigners were out in numbers on a media-thronged Kildare Street in Dublin this morning in advance of Brian Lenihan’s presentation of the Budget for 2011.
The front gates of Leinster House were largely obscured by giant banners highlighting what campaigners call the “giveaway” of €540 billion worth of Irish natural resources. Aside from the 50-strong international media presence and 30-odd Gardai, the remaining numbers before lunchtime were made up mostly by Rossport locals and their supporters from around the country.
Just after midday, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams emerged from Leinster House to give his first media briefing since announcing his intention to contest the next general election in Louth. Campaigners from Mayo moved with remarkable speed to manoeuvre one of the banners into place behind Adams and his Sinn Féin colleagues.
Minutes later a long banner was dropped from the roof of Buswells Hotel, facing Leinster House. The banner, which highlighted the relative size of Ireland’s offshore oil and gas and the IMF/EU bailout (€540 billion versus €85 billion), remained in place for almost half an hour. When it was removed, campaigners managed to reclaim it.
Earlier, Shell to Sea campaigners staged a brief street theatre spectacle. Brian Lenihan - his words spoken by an actor in a mask - announced a giveaway Budget made possible by the renegotiation of Ireland’s notoriously generous oil and gas licensing terms.
In the early morning, a man had parked a cherry-picker crane on Kildare St, with the crane extended, holding the man high above the railings of Leinster House. The man remained in the box for over an hour before he came down and was arrested. The cherry-picker wasn’t removed until after 2pm.
Finally, the following was overheard outside Leinster House. A Garda talking to a US cameraman: “You see, people in Ireland are more interested in X-Factor than protesting. I was looking at my Facebook this morning and people were saying, ‘That guy with the cherry-picker is great, I must go down and support him.’ But nobody came down here.”