May 1985 and a skinny 18-year-old walks up the back stairs of the Irish Press. He has a magnificent mullet and is wearing drainpipe, sky-blue trousers and gleaming white shoes. He (okay, me) looks like a toilet brush with legs.

"You'll wreck those shoes with all the ink here," an equally-mulleted runner told me as I settled in to my first night as a copyboy. He eyed them covetously.

He was right. Within an hour of running along the metal gangway with copy for the caseroom, they were blacker than a printer's fingernail. I sold them to him for a tenner. He used to carry around a tube of white polish to keep them gleaming.

It's a trivial detail to mention, but to me, 25 years on this week, this shows how indelibly the Irish Press inked itself onto my synapses. It would become my fulcrum for the next decade.

I remember the chemical tang of the dark rooms and the clutter of the newsroom. The bundles of pencil-subbed copy and the aroma of Pritt Stick. I still hear the tinnitus-like ringing of phones, the clatter of Linotype printing machines and Farah-slacked old lads singing "My, my, MYYYYYYYYYY... DELILAH!"

I recall the years slipping by in Mulligan's and the verbal sparring which sometimes turned physical. A drunk colleague once told me: "Journalists shouldn't fight with each other."

I was scathing. "Why? Because we're some kind of specially-anointed brotherhood?"

"No," he replied. "Because we're crap at it."

I see the old Linotypes being replaced by Harris computers and Burgh Quay hushed into a sleek, silent age. Two months after starting in my white shoes, there was a strike and printers who had worked there for decades were laid off. That was 25 years ago this week.

Ten years later, and also this week, I was the one being made redundant.

The dispute is largely forgotten now. A stand-off between the NUJ and management led to 40 journalists sitting-in at Burgh Quay. I was one of them.

Rebelling against The Man was one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done. I loved the attention. Sky News filmed us waving from the windows. Celebrities, even the Irish soccer team, showed up to show support. The country was behind us.

We worked on our own paper, the XPress. It was our 'War News'. After four sleepless nights we left to be greeted by 1,000 cheering journalists who had marched on the Dáil. The rest of that summer was a haze of marching and producing the XPress. I watched old, jaded hacks being rejuvenated by 'the struggle'. Then summer burned itself out and hope faded. People fell away. I worked on the last XPress in September. After 10 years of learning to edit, write and drink, I fell away too. The Irish Press was dead.

Depressing reality and the sudden gut-punch of mass redundancy hit home. Some would never work again. Some would drink themselves to death.

Sitting here now, 15 years later, I think I knew all along we'd never win. My protest was about pride. I actually hated the Irish Press. It had devoured my 20s.

The hundreds of redundancies to come at Pfizer reminded me of what it's like to face losing your job. I know what they're going through – I've been made redundant three times. No amount of marching will help. There are times when you can't win and must aim instead at squeezing the best out of a bad situation. You target specifics like beefing-up pay-offs. You aim for the winnable, realistic stuff.

You don't behave like Richard Boyd Barrett. Last Tuesday, his Right To Work campaign protested at Leinster House for the second time in a fortnight. Previously, some of the group tried to 'storm' the Dáil and gardaí drew their batons. Éirígí, who are agitating for a socialist republic, were involved.

I have voted for Boyd Barrett in the past for his work in Dun Laoghaire. Last week, I regretted it for the first time.

His campaign has undermined all future protests by its sheer bloody pointlessness. What does 'Right To Work' mean anyway? We all know we have that right. How is this campaign going to create jobs? This was purely about pushing Boyd Barrett's and Éirégí's unrealistic socialist agenda. Other marches by people with specific grievances will now be marked by heightened security. Elements among the radical socialists want this. They want batons to swing in a Grecian frenzy.

This was self-indulgent "down with capitalism" stuff. Single issue protests are the only way to achieve change – not fighting an 'ism'. Boyd Barrett knows this. He fought a single-issue battle to save Dun Laoghaire's baths and won.

The medical card and head shops campaigns worked because they had single, achievable targets. The media campaigns against TDs' expenses worked for the same reason.

Ireland will never be a socialist republic. Social justice can only be achieved bit by bit. Public protest is integral to this – but not the pie-in-the-sky crap we've seen from Boyd Barrett's crew.

The Right To Work march was as effective as my marching to save the Irish Press. Boyd Barrett needs to stop dreaming of his utopia and start trying to achieve something.

What do we want? For you to stop wasting our time with pointless marches. When do we want it? Now.