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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Elizabeth Pineau

Emmanuel Macron stares down a hostile citizenry in first public outing since hiking French retirement age

French president Emmanuel Macron in Selestat, eastern France, yesterday

Protesters greeted French president Emmanuel Macron with boos and calls for him to resign in his first public appearance since he signed into law an unpopular rise in the retirement age.

Outside a factory he was visiting in the eastern Alsace region, Mr Macron was faced with hostile banners and banging on pots and pans.

Unionised workers briefly cut electrical power inside the factory.

Then, as he walked through a crowd in a nearby village, many shouted “Macron, resign!” and one man told him: “We don’t want this pension [reform], what don’t you get?”

Another man told him he led a corrupt government and added: “You’ll fall soon, just wait and see.”

There were also some cheers – one man told him to “hang in there,” a woman thanked him for his work and others asked for selfies.

But even in an area that is pro-Macron and voted slightly more for him than the national average in the 2022 presidential election, the reception was mostly hostile.

Mr Macron signed into law at the weekend a rise in the retirement age which means citizens must work two years longer, to 64, before receiving their state pension.

That was after three months of protests that mobilised huge crowds and at times turned violent.

Opinion polls show a vast majority of voters oppose the reform.

In the village of Selestat, the centrist president said he was fine with people expressing their discontent “but the country must move forward”.

Earlier during the factory visit, Mr Macron shrugged off the display of discontent, saying: “Pans won’t help France move forward.”

He added that it was not possible for a society to listen only to those who “make the most noise”, as he sought to highlight positive aspects of people having to work two years more. 

Mr Macron’s government wants to move on and change other measures to do with working conditions, law and order, education and health issues.

But yesterday’s outing made clear many were not ready to move on. And they were not the only ones.

In Paris, a free climber known as the ‘French Spiderman’ scaled a 38-storey skyscraper to demonstrate his opposition to the pension law.

“I’m here to tell Emmanuel Macron to come back down to earth... by climbing with no safety net,” said climber Alain Robert.

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