THE TRICOLOUR hangs in a makeshift camp on Liddy Street in the city where the Occupy Limerick protestors have made their home for the past month.
But those protesting in the hope of creating a new Ireland feel that “the country that people worked and fought for is going to rack and ruin, and being sold out from under us.”
“The spirit of the country is just dead,” said Mairead Ahern, 29, from Thomondgate, who spent Christmas day in the camp, and will ring in the New Year there too.
The industrial design graduate contemplated emigrating to Canada to find work, but decided to stay in the hope that their actions here might make some difference. “It’s very tempting [to emigrate], but I thought maybe someone should stick around and sort something out,” she adds.
College loans added to her decision to stay here, and she recently got an internship under the Job Bridge scheme with an energy renewal company but has no plans to give her up call to the movement just yet.
While other protestors went home to spend Christmas day in the warmth, she had no qualms in taking over this shift.
“Not to sound harsh, but the majority of us wouldn’t believe in the whole Christmas hype anyway. We enjoy spend time with our families, but the whole commercial aspect wouldn’t appeal to me at all,” she said.
Fellow activist Terry Irwin, 47, who is originally from the Liberties in Dublin, is here because he wants to create a better future for his 11 year-old son. “I want to look at my son and whatever way it goes say I tried to do something.”
They are among 20 regular volunteers with the Occupy movement in Limerick, which has now stretched to some 3,000 camps worldwide, manned by those who have become disenchanted with the social and economic divisions capitalism has created. All have followed the initial Occupy Wall Street movement which began last September.
But their presence in Limerick isn’t always greeted with the goodwill typified by the Christmas season.
Sitting on a couch donated to the movement, and with a sleeping bag wrapped around her for warmth, Ms Ahern said the number of people who support them and are against them is “about 50/50.”
“We have to run with the positive feedback and ignore the negative. If you listened to the negative reaction you’d never do anything,” she says.
Over Christmas one volunteer’s car was robbed and later found burnt out on the northside of the city, after they turned away some young people who approached the tent with a “bag of cans”.
“We operate a no drink and no drug policy here. This is not a place you can go if you can’t get into Nancy’s [Nancy Blake’s bar]. But we have tea and coffee here for anyone who wants to come in for a chat,” he said.
*A longer version of this story appeared in the Limerick Leader weekend edition