After watching the riotous antics of the Irish Farmers’ Association, Matt Gregg wonders why UCD’s great unwashed are unable to show the same protesting vigour
Farmers sure know how to throw a good protest. That much is beyond doubt after the IFA’s stunt at Fianna Fáil’s think-in in Athlone. Who can honestly say they weren’t a little bit impressed by the victory of agricultural muscle over An Garda Síochana’s forces of law and order?
Having spent my whole life in cities, my knowledge of anything rural has been pretty limited. My most lasting impression of farming was drawn largely from a childhood love of the movie Babe. With a happy ending and an Oscar under its belt, the film is clearly not without its merits – but still, I just can’t help but wonder if my urban upbringing has left me without the knowledge I really need to understand why farmers have become such experts in the field of protesting.
You can always count on farmers to be protesting about something. Protesting isn’t an area of expertise confined solely to Irish farmers either; across Europe, their brethren are sweating milk and tears for the agricultural cause. With huge cuts in funding destroying what little profit most farmers were making, some of you may well be inclined to don your flat cap and join them in the field of battle.
But after the hearty student protest at the bar on ‘Black Monday’ failed to even get a mention in the Metro, let alone on RTÉ News, would farmers actually be all that pushed about accepting our help? Their display at the Hudson Hotel in Athlone combined the essential factors of time, timing and location into one solid protest. If only we had remembered these, perhaps the Irish nation would have being roaring us on in the fight against the temporary closure of our neighbourhood bar.
Organisation was always going to be a tough one. You know it, I know it; pretty much everybody knows that time management is quite a challenge for students. There’s only so much pool to play, daytime television to watch and tea to drink while procrastinating the day away. Getting a good protest going isn’t exactly top priority.
This blatantly showed in the timing of the event. A good protest should never be held at dusk. That’s just too grey, too boring, and too middle of the road. At dusk, it’s too dark for everyone to see the witty banners and zany costumes you’ve made to legitimise your cause. But at the same time, it’s still not dark enough to start lighting up the sky with a Molotov cocktail.
As experts in trying to find low budget property, most students know the importance of location, location, location. This makes sense really: what use is a protest that no one’s around to see? How are people supposed to see how upset you are? Admit it: if the farmers had picketed the National Ploughing Championships, you would hardly have batted an eyelid.
Protesting in your own backyard is not the done thing. Let’s be honest, destruction is often a by-product of protesting. It’s almost inevitable that, somewhere down the line, someone will set a car ablaze. And when they do, nobody wants to risk it being their own car going up in the name of justice, easier as it would make it to find a decent parking space.
Let’s spare a thought for the poor farmer and the price you pay for your pint. Of course a run on the student bar was no revolution: a bit of a tantrum and a tussle, not a stampede.
But what should we do about it?
Let them eat cake, your writer says. The streets are flowing with milk and there’s not enough space in the bar for a beer.