15 May 2009

Tánaiste ambushed by Waterford Protesters

The Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Mary Coughlan (photo), who is also Minister in charge of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, was visiting Waterford this afternoon to attend a business conference in a city centre hotel.
But when she arrived, she was confronted by a large group of local protesters, most of them former
Waterford Crystal workers.

After some pathetic attempts to ignore the angry crowd, Coughlan agreed eventually - and reluctantly - to meet a delegation of the workers and listen to what they had to say. This meeting took place after she had attended the business conference.

Hours before Coughlan arrived in Waterford, around 70 former employees of Waterford Crystal and their supporters from the UNITE trade union had gathered outside the hotel in the centre of the city to protest against their loss of pensions and the non-payment of redundancy monies for workers of the once world-renowned flagship business.

At first the Tánaiste pretended not to notice the protest. She entered the hotel by the back door and went straight to the conference she had come to attend. But by that time a group of former Waterford Crystal workers had made their way into to hotel's foyer and thus could no longer be ignored or overlooked.

Later, after frantic mobile phone calls had been made and whispers were exchanged between the minister's assistant and hotel staff, Mary Coughlan agreed to meet a delegation of the protesters in a room upstairs.

The former Waterford Crystal employees had by this time brought their protest inside the hotel and refused to leave until their delegation had met with the Tánaiste. So she did not have much of a choice, really.
She listened to the workers, did not promise anything, did not say much, and what she said did not make much sense. But that's just Mary Coughlan, so no-one should be surprised (and no-one in Waterford was).

After the forced meeting with reality a flustered woman looking like Mary Coughlan left the hotel - again via the back door - and rushed back to Dublin in her large chauffeur-driven Mercedes.

The protestors, who were still assembled outside the hotel (and some inside the foyer) were then addressed by trade union representatives and informed about the meeting with the Tánaiste. There were some mutterings, and clear signs of disappointment, but then the group dispersed peacefully. Some went straight home to their anxious families, while a few others were drowning their sorrows in nearby pubs.

As things are, there is little hope for the now empty shell of Waterford Crystal, and even less hope for the hundreds of workers who gave many years of service to the company and are now left with nothing.
It also says quite a lot about the state of a country and its government when the Deputy Prime Minister can no longer enter a prominent hotel through the front entrance and has to sneak in and out by the back door instead.

The Emerald Islander

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