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Jackson urges people to vote but says power may lie outside political system

Resource type: News

Irish Times | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]


IF PEOPLE do not vote in the general election, then they lose the right to criticise, US civil rights activist Rev Jesse Jackson has told an audience in Dublin.

He said people should vote for politicians they could trust, but when asked what they should do if they had lost trust in all politicians, he said: “Maybe you depend too much on the political system, maybe the power you seek is outside that system.” He cited the actions of people such as Rosa Parks and Dr Martin Luther King.

He was speaking yesterday at the launch of an equality and human rights plan, drawn up by the Equality and Rights Alliance, a coalition of more than 160 organisations and activists opposing cuts to the human rights and equality budget.

Mr Jackson worked with Dr Martin Luther King and led voter registration drives to empower disadvantaged communities in the US for over 25 years. He said equality must be a centrepiece of Ireland’s election debate and now was the time for change. A country’s budget plan should be seen as a moral document as it spoke volumes about a government’s priorities.

“Now is our chance to globalise human rights and workers’ rights, protect women and children, save the global environment.”

He encouraged Irish people to dream beyond circumstances. “You may not be responsible for being down but you must be responsible for getting up. Don’t let anything break your spirit. Forward ever, backward never.”

Mr Jackson spoke about the “virtual collapse” of Ireland’s economy and called for a restructuring of the banking system. “Instead of concentrating more power into fewer and fewer banks, they should be broken up in smaller, community-based banks focused on lending to small businesses, homeowners.”

He drew links between the Irish and African-American struggles for equality and said many African-Americans had roots in Ireland. His great-grandfather was an Irish plantation owner who was sheriff of Greenville County before the civil war.

Equality and Rights Alliance is an Atlantic grantee.

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