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Tens of thousands march in Dublin for striking nurses

TENS of thousands brought Dublin to a standstill on Saturday as a huge march in solidarity with striking nurses was cheered by supporters lining the streets.

Organisers claimed that at least 30,000 people took part in the demonstration, including the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), which were supported by the Mandate union, Unite and the Communication Workers Union.

It was a huge outpouring of support for Irish health workers who are set to take three further days of strike action on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as they escalate the campaign for a pay rise and government action to deal with a recruitment and retention crisis in Ireland’s health service.

Talks chaired by the Labour Court have so far failed to break the deadlock with the Fine Gael government insisting that it will address issues that don’t include a pay rise. However nursing unions are demanding a 12 per cent rise which they say is necessary to tackle staff shortages which they warn are having a detrimental impact on patient care. 

INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said the government had no argument to justify the continued failure on equal pay for nurses and midwives.

Speaking to the crowds at the Dublin rally, she said: “Equal pay for nurses with other graduates is something we have strived for, is something that we seek and it’s something that we intend to get, because without it, nursing and midwifery will still be considered a little bit of a vocation and a little bit of ‘girls going to work’ and girls just not having the right to stand up for themselves.”

The PNA announced on Friday that it was stepping up its campaign and will also be striking for three days this week.

PNA general secretary Peter Hughes warned that by 2021, 34 per cent of psychiatric nurses would reach retirement age with the recruitment and retention crisis “impacting daily on the quality of care and the access to services for patients and service users.”

He branded the fact that 3,000 children are stuck on waiting lists for mental health assessments “a national disgrace.”

Irish communists joined the demonstration as part of the Communities Against Low Pay umbrella organisation.

The Communist Party of Ireland congratulated nurses in “holding firm despite pressure from the Establishment and its mass misinformation campaign.

“This dispute needs the support of all trade unions and all working people,” it said in a statement.

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