Well for some: watching the march from the window of Fás

The man was standing outside the Ambassador Cinema, shouting into his loud hailer. "All workers in public and private sectors join the protest now," he instructed. He wasn't an official steward of Ictu, which was organising the protest. He was attached to the Socialist Workers Party, which was having a rare old time of it.

The emphasis placed on the two sectors was ob­viously to counter what trade unions are suggesting is a concerted effort to divide and conquer. The government, the media, the amorphous establishment is apparently driving a wedge between the two sectors.

In eight centres last Friday, union members protested at the way things are.

In Dublin, it was quite obvious that there is a divide between public and private. The majority of marchers were of the public sector. There were a few token private sector unions in atten­dance such as the electricians, TEEU, the bricklayers BATU, and the painters and decor­ators' union.

There were fewer than 100 marching behind a banner reading "construction unions". Where were the tens of thousands who have lost their jobs over the last year? After all, here was a chance to vent their anger at the appalling predicament into which they have been thrust. Surely they knew that this march was about more than just pay cuts in the public sector?

In Dublin, the mood was light, the humour high. One chant went as follows: "Cut­backs, budget, shame, shame, the workers aren't the ones to blame." And: "Government cutbacks, no way, no way, time to make the fat cats pay."

The rich came in for par­ticular vitriol as the march progressed down O'Connell Street. The rich, according to union sources, includes the 5% who allegedly own 40% of the nation's wealth. The rich does not include the fewer than 10% of taxpayers who earn more than €120,000 a year, like Siptu president Jack O'Connor.

Jack was at the front of the march, a class warrior fright­ening the rich in their trophy homes, as he led the risen people towards a new order.

Accompanying him was David Begg, who has been tirelessly promoting Ictu's 10-point plan for a fairer way of tacking the crisis. Most of the points are completely valid, and even vital to applying any measure of fairness to what is coming down the line.

Notably, the proposition to extend the recovery period to 2017 instead of 2013 is Point No 10. This proposal is the biggest one in terms of impact on the public finances, and if it were being seriously pushed would surely have merited top billing.

There is no proposal push­ing for sensible measures like introducing a property tax, or means-testing child benefit, both of which would lead to greater equity, but might upset union members.

One wonders also how many of the marchers are concerned with by far the most unfair measure being floated – the cutting of basic social-welfare rates.

In Merrion Square, Begg addressed the audience. "We are in a bad, bad space and there is no pain-free way of getting out of it. But there is a better, fairer way of doing so if the government is just willing to listen," he said.

According to the organ­isers, around 70,000 turned out in Dublin. According to garda figures this was the total turnout in the eight centres. (And unlike the cases of most protests, it's in the interests of members of the force to hype up rather than damp down the estimated attendance at this one). There's more pain on the way, from the frontline service unions next Wed­nesday, and across the public service on 24 November.