We hadn’t planned to stay in Galway and entered the city under rather ominous circumstances. Our stop here was to allow those of us who were sick to rest and get a break from driving.
However, the city felt different than all the others we’d been to in Ireland. The outsiders were different and watchful, locals vanished, shops suddenly closed, barriers went up, and the city seemed to be quietly holding its breath as if waiting for something to happen.
I’ve experienced this before in other countries and knew what it potentially meant: a fight was brewing. This is the pause before the storm.
In 2012, at the end of the Occupy Movement, Galway was one of the last protest camps to be dismantled worldwide. And, it was done rather violently at sunrise in Eyre Square. According to the Occupy Galway website: As dawn broke on the 215th day of the protest, the city was put under martial law and all streets into Eyre Square were blocked off. The 9 people present at the time of the raid could offer little resistance to the overwhelming force of the Garda public order unit. After the occupiers were removed from the camp the Gardaí and workers began to destroy the structures and remove the tents. [link removed]
We arrived in Galway and were across the street from Eyre Square exactly one year (minus a day) from this fateful event and the city was bracing itself for an anniversary protest. But as we wandered the streets looking for food, people were anticipatory and watchful… but still polite. We listened to music, stories, intense discussions, and eventually camped out in a restaurant from which we were able to people watch. We talked to locals who were wary and didn’t want a repeat of the previous year.
There were gatherings in Eyre Square and along the Medieval Streets. By the Spanish Gate there were lines of teenagers watching the crowd in anticipation. But as the day progressed, nothing happened even though the number of Gardaí in the city slowly increased. We enjoyed a nice meal and returned to the hotel before dark. The next day we found out that the “demonstrations” were in reality “discussions” about bank debt, inequality, and unemployment. There was no violence… only a well organized plea for change.
For us, we left town early the next morning in haste… not out of fear but rather to make it back to Dublin in time for planned events.