The May Bank Holiday in Dublin saw the traditional trade union May Day march and the Hope carnival held by radical environmentalists. The contrast between both events was extraordinary.
The union march which followed a route from Parnell Square to Liberty Hall via O'Connell st was poorly attended in comparison with recent years. The main reason for this is that the organisers were unwilling or unable to tell anyone when the march was to be held until only a few days before the event.
The last couple of years have seen around 1,000 people on the trade union organised May Day march. This year's event attracted only a couple of hundred, mostly trade union officials and the members of the various left parties. There was also a small anarchist presence around the Workers Solidarity Movement banner and the red and black flags scattered through the march.
This really was one of those May Day marches where you ended up wondering 'why do I bother'. Holding it on a sunny bank holiday a week after May Day not only divorced it from the events it commemorates but also meant we were marching through almost empty streets.
After following a pack of union officials through the deserted streets we then got to hear the same old speeches. There was one notable exception, Nestor Ocampo, a Colombian environmentalist was allowed to tell us a little about the battle in his country against the Irish multinational Smurfit's.
We briefly tried to liven things up a little on the march by starting a chant of
Escalate the Class War
Organise to smash the state
but chanting to empty streets feels a little pointless at the best of times so we soon gave up.
Quite a few of those who had taken part in the successful Stock Exchange protest a few days earlier had decided to go instead to the Hope Carnival, being held on the other side of the city centre at the Corporation offices in Wood Quay. This was organised by environmentalists of various persuasions and at least had the benefit of being entertaining.
Several hundred people attended this event which was focused around the frame of a geodesic dome built in the centre of the park on a stage. Various bands played off this although from what I saw by far the best was a mixed group of 30 or so drummers, singers and dancers.
Quite a few of the younger anarchists headed up from the May Day march to the carnival, the older ones preferred to retreat to a nearby pub and murmur into their pints about hippies. This wasn't an altogether inaccurate description of the event, the speeches from the stage including one promoting veganism and another urging us all to consume less.
Mind you in the choice between hippies andmusic in the park or aging lefties and boring speeches on the street I reckon the hippies clearly carried the day! The park also featured the usual face painting and people in costume. A special mention goes out to the heroic Gardaí who spent a few moment of his precious time disarming a group of dangerous five year olds carrying lethal rolled up newspapers!.
WORDS Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )