not enough protest songs

I’ve lived in Northern Ireland all my life. I was a student in the 1980s. Therefore, I’ve done my fair share of protesting. Decades of it. At students’ unions, at civil service offices, in town centres. In all weathers, but mostly the rain.

Yesterday was different. The sun was out. The sky was blue, and well wrapped up people, and the not so well wrapped up, sat outside coffee shops. Nobody did that in the 80s.

Yesterday I got to protest twice, almost as if I’d got a bargain- two protests for the effort of one. So much to complain about.

I was there for the mass gathering to join with the Kerr family in honouring PC Ronan Kerr. We used to parade for ‘peace’; we didn’t expect to still feel the need to huddle together in protest after years of a peace process. I can’t imagine that me being soggy in public with a banner ever had any direct impact, but I’ve always wanted to be counted, to be part of the symbolism of ‘not in my name’. The process of building a peace has seemed tortuously slow at times, but PC Kerr’s funeral was a remarkable indication of how far we have come together.

An hour or so later, it was time to join in with ‘No ifs, no buts; stop the education cuts’, a chant I’m well familiar with.  Students (current, past and future) and staff from the third level institutions in NI were there with politicians to register protest at the incoming cuts and changes to the education system- huge increases in university fees and a reduction in the Educational Maintenance Allowance, which allows many to participate in further education.

My former roommate and partner in crime was one of the organisers of the education march and protest- the youth of the Thatcher era motivating the youth of the children of Thatcher Cameron/Clegg era?  

Good to know that I’m not the only one still crazy after all these years…



(Half an hour after writing the title I found this, which may need further investigation. And maybe singing)


3 thoughts on “not enough protest songs

  1. I missed the gathering to honour PC Ronan Kerr, about which I felt distressed. Like you, I am a veteran of the eighties peace and protest marches, having braved the chill wind and the chillier public opinion. Yesterday’s meeting was the one I should have been at. This is a different era with different needs and certainly different perspectives. We have come a long way in the past ten years and are otherwise learning the skill of accommodation. PC Kerr was symbolic of the aspirations of young people to own this community, to spend their lives here and to mould it as they wish – peacefully, positively and embracing all cultures. Yesterday’s gathering demonstrated the support for this ambition and the outrage that yet another family should be in torment because of anonymous would-be dictators.
    What can be said to the family at this time? Other than – your son was courageous and has already been an example to us all to make the effort to stand up for what we believe. My thoughts are with you.

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