6 April 2006 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

BY Justin Moran

French President Jacques Chirac

French President Jacques Chirac

Verdict of the People's Court - 'La Guillotine'

Two thousand students from the occupied Pau University held a symbolic trial of French President Jacques Chirac on Monday night before the mass mobilisations planned for Tuesday of this week. The verdict of the People's Court for the French President was simple- 'La Guillotine'.

And though it is unlikely that the leadership of the French Government will face quite that result, the second mass mobilisation of workers and students that saw three million people take to the streets on Tuesday, was as much a victory march as a protest.

For two months French politics has been dominated by protests against proposals from the French Government to introduce new legislation, the CPE, which would allow workers under the age of 26 to be fired without explanation or protection for the first two years of their employment.

Railway stations, roads and bridges were blockaded. Offices of the governing UMP were attacked. French students occupied 68 of the county's 83 universities and using democratic general assemblies of students to show support for the occupations. Almost half of the country's secondary schools were shut by striking students.

Successive rolling national strikes saw major sections of the French economy grind to a halt. In the face of increasing resistance, the Government has started looking for a way out.

While the President signed the law at the weekend, he has instructed that it should only apply for the first year of employment and that an explanation would be necessary.

He has also ordered talks with the unions and with the amended law not due to come into effect until May, student and worker leaders believe their strength on the streets will force the law to be shelved.

Public support has been behind the protests from the start. The Prime Minister, de Villepin, who proposed the law, has seen his approval rating plummet from 48% in January to 28%. Internal opponents in the UMP have declared the proposed law 'dead and buried'

Speaking after the protests on Tuesday, Bernard Thibault, leader of the CGT, the country's second biggest trade union federation said, "I say it again, this is the meaning of the demonstrations and strikes today, the repeal of the CPE is not negotiable.

"There is new blood in this movement and while I hope these rallies will help us deal the fatal blow beginning tomorrow, we will call for a continuation of the protests with new types of actions to take into account the (upcoming Easter) school holidays," Thibault concluded.

Ógra disrupts private health conference

Ógra Shinn Féin members disrupted a conference on private healthcare in Dublin in a direct action protest on Wednesday. The protest was organised to draw attention to the privatisation of the Irish healthcare. 'Ireland's inaugural private healthcare conference' was being held in Dublin's Berkeley Court Hotel when Ógra members disrupted proceedings and read a statement to the conference slamming those people making "a profit from people's pain, suffering fears and their ill-health".

Ógra said that those in the private health industry who attended the conference were there "to further Americanise and commodify the health of the Irish people. They collude in this with our increasingly right-wing Government, which sees the enrichment of the corporate elite as preferable to the well-being of the Irish people.

"We in Ógra Shinn Fein believe that health is for people - not for profit. Corporations such as General Electric (GE) make everything from light bulbs to cars and now they wish to treat sick Irish people, as long as they have money."

The statement slammed the state of the underfunded public health service and said access to healthcare is a universal and inalienable right for all.


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