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Pensioners strike back – Paula Geraghty, 2008

12 March 2009

Ireland does not have a free universal health care system. A number of years ago a free universal health care also known as the Medical Card was introduced for everyone over 70 years of age.

Last October, the Irish Government in order to save money decided to take away this access to health care to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

What happened after was phenomenal. Age Action organized a meeting to decide what to do. As the room was too small a nearby Church was given over. Senior politicians were booed and heckled, like a scene from the Bible. The Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, had told people that it was their ‘patriotic duty’ to take some of the pain of the economic crisis. ‘These people’ were the ones who had paid their taxes, built the Irish economy and kept society together during the poverty of the 40’s and 50’s, took the hits in the 80’s and made the sacrifices so my generation could have a better life. Over 15,000 took part in a historic march of predominantly pensioners outside the Dáil (Irish Parliament) to keep the universal Medical Card for the over 70’s.

This image was taken at the edge of an over packed open truck. Pensioners had traveled the length and breadth of Ireland. It was a profound event photographing what will be history and bearing witness to a population who were saying enough is enough.

This sparked a wave of protests against the Government’s cutbacks, later on the same day as the pensioner’s protest, 20,000 students took to the streets. Teachers, Parents and pupils rallied and marched all over the country during the following weeks.

It is exhilarating to be working in such dynamic times and to be able to document the vitality of resistance and the enduring hope and action for change.

Paula Geraghty ditched her blue plastic 110mm film camera, which came free in a cereal box, after her images from the Friday prayers at Har Homa outside of Bethlehem were blurred and out of focus, for a rusty Practika MTL 50 in 1996. She’s not looked back.

Paula’s work has evolved into New Media and she creates video clips and documentaries. She has worked in Haiti, Ukraine and Lebanon making photographs about health, children and refugees. Her work poses some fundamental questions, one being; how do you maintain a fragile society and communities in the face of poverty, oppression and exploitation?

Her clients include the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, The Smithsonian Institute, Al-Jazeera, Banúlacht, Entreprise Ireland, Depaul Trust,  Arts Council, Amnesty International, Unite and Fatima Groups United.

Paula joined Epuk in September 2007 and feels she has gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from colleagues sharing information and supporting each other through its email forum.

Photographer since 2003, EPUK member since 2007.

See more work by Paula Geraghty

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