Occupy Cork protesters dismantle camp

Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 00:00

THE OCCUPY Cork movement, which had dwindled to a few hardy souls, voluntarily removed its protest camp yesterday.

As the protesters against the excesses of global banking and financial services cleaned up before St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the city, one of them said the worst thing they had to deal with was drunken students out late at night.

In recent weeks the number of protesters maintaining a presence at the South Mall dwindled to as few as two or three persons remaining on site overnight.

At noon yesterday, members of the Occupy Cork camp were taking down the remaining tents as well as a large wooden structure which had been erected on a boardwalk adjacent to the river Lee.

One of those involved in the camp since the beginning was Polish national George Les, who spent 150 nights at the camp. He said the biggest problem facing protesters was not keeping warm or appeasing civic authorities.

“Almost every Thursday night we had drunk persons at the camp trying to get in because it was student night in Cork. When they were drunk some threatened to attack and intimidate us. We were the ones having to call the Garda on them often, and in fairness they helped us out. That is the reason we prefer to move peacefully from this place now and not wait to be evicted.”

During the occupation the protesters campaigned on many issues, including the universal household charge and payments to bondholders.

English folk singer Billy Bragg visited the camp, and in January members of the camp occupied Stapleton House on Oliver Plunkett Street as a protest against public use of Nama properties.

The Occupy Cork group says it has succeeded in raising awareness among the public about various issues. “I think it has made it okay for people to protest,” said George Les.

“On a personal level, being here from the beginning I got to make friends with all sorts of people from different backgrounds.”

The Occupy Cork movement has said that although the camp may be disbanded the group will remain active and events are planned for St Patrick’s weekend.

A spokesman for Cork City Council confirmed that discussion had been ongoing with the protesters following public complaints around a wooden structure which had been erected. The council denied the group moved under threat of eviction.

“Cork City Council has had meetings with the group and asked them to facilitate us for St Patrick’s Day and in terms of returning the boardwalk for public use,” the spokesman said.

“The structure was unsightly and preventing use of the space. We had a number of complaints from the public in relation to the space, and we are delighted to see the camp being removed.”