As the cost of living crisis continues, a protest was held in Enniskillen organised by the North West Anti-Poverty Action Group last Saturday.

The crowd held up banners and signs protesting against rising costs as others in other towns and cities around Ireland also took to the streets to protest.

Speakers included Independent councillor, Eamon Keenan and Caroline Rice, a mother of one from Lisnaskea who has spoken out before about the problems facing families due to the cost of living.

Councillor Keenan said everyone at the protest had had enough and that people are being exploited “in every aspect of our lives”.

He said: “We are exploited through low-paid jobs, we are exploited when we have to put fuel in our cars to get to these low-paid jobs, we are exploited again when we are taxed from those low-paid jobs, with very little of that taxpayer money ever coming back into public services that we can avail of, as the move towards privatisation hastens thanks to Westminster, Stormont and the lackeys that officiate from these parliaments for the rich.

“We are exploited also when we get to our home lives, as the very homes we live in are no longer seen or treated as homes by the speculators and the vultures.

“They are seen as ‘commodities’ – another profit-making business for the greedy. This market is carefully controlled by the landlords and the bankers, and this is all facilitated through government policy which promotes this profit-making ideology.

‘Exploited further’

“We are then exploited further by the opportunistic homegrown capitalists with whatever few pence we might have left. They then see an opportunity to increase their profits, whether it be for a loaf of bread or clothes to put on your child’s back.

“The gap between the rich and the poor has never increased as quickly as it has in the last few years.

“There are food banks popping up all over the country – they are in almost every town and village.

“This phenomenon hasn’t been seen in this country since the time of the soup kitchens, when millions of people on this island starved. What’s the next step: workhouses?

“Surely, friends, the time has come to say enough is enough! We cannot allow this to continue.”

Miss Rice said she was “sick, sore and tired” of the poorest in society being told how to live.

“I’m tired of them telling us that social security is enough to live on, and insinuating that our [financial] struggles and that we are poor or living on the breadline is because we ‘don’t shop well’.

“Try living in a rural area with no car or poor mental health – it’s time consuming and can be draining constantly budgeting as you shop, attending multiple shops, if you even have that choice.”

She said people are driving themselves into debt to survive, and more needs to be done: “We need to shout – we need to say ‘No more’, we need to hold politicians to account.

“We need action, not words, or we are just going through another pandemic – of poverty – and deaths will be seen.”

Speaking about the protest, North West Anti-Poverty Action Group said they were pleased with their first protest: “Everyone on Saturday seemed to be in agreement that things cannot continue unchallenged and that we cannot wait or rely on Stormont or those in power to do something about it.

“We intend to use people-powered activism and we hope to be holding more events in the near future.”