Water charges campaigners stop Cork City Council meeting
Group occupy main council chamber to condemn jailing of five Dublin protesters
Cork councillor Mick Barry. A meeting of Cork City Council had to be abandoned this evening after anti-water charges campaigners disrupted it in protest at the jailing of five protesters in Dublin last week. The meeting had been due to vote on a motion on the jailing proposed by Cllr Barry. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Mary Shields abandoned the meeting when about 80 anti-water charges campaigners entered the main council chamber to protest the High Court’s decision.
Anti-water charges campaigner Brian Gould told The Irish Times that the group had planned to sit in the public gallery to listen to a debate on a motion condemning the jailings, proposed by Cllr Mick Barry of the Socialist Party and Cllr Ted Tynan of the Workers Party.
Mr Gould said that as only one public gallery was open, which could only accommodate some 30 protesters, the group decided to enter the main chamber after the council refused to open the remaining public galleries.
“We walked into the chamber and we asked the Lord Mayor would she open the gallery . . . She banged the bell and said the meeting was closed and walked out - the meeting had started at half five and it was all over by ten to six,” said Mr Gould.
“We believe Cork City Council should pass a motion condemning the government for keeping these five people in prison - we told them it was pointless proposing a motion if we were outside the door and couldn’t hear what was being discussed - we might as well have been at home in our beds.
“Democracy was not served by the meeting being cancelled because the Lord Mayor would not allow a democratic motion be put to the floor, with the people who are entitled to listen, the public, not being allowed in - we should have been allowed to hear it.”
Cllr Tynan said that he and Cllr Barry had proposed the motion and were pushing to have the motion voted on at the start of the meeting, but some Fine Gael councillors objected and instead proposed that the motion be taken at the end of the meeting.
Cllr Tynan said that he also requested the city manager, Ann Doherty, as well as members of the other political parties, to open up the remaining public galleries to allow anti-water charges campaigners access to the meeting, but they told him it was a decision by the party whips.
Cllr Barry said: “If the powers that be in this country think they can jail anti-water charge campaigners and put them on lockdown and think there is going to be business as usual, they are very much mistaken.
“As far as I am concerned there isn’t a council in the country that is off-limits for protests such as this . . . as long as those anti-water charge campaigners remain in jail in Dublin and are being treated the way that they are treated.”
Fianna Fáil leader on the council, Cllr Seán Martin, said that he had no difficulty with the public galleries being opened to the public but there was a protocol to deal with motions proposed at short notice for the end of a meeting.
“The gallery should be open - it’s a public meeting - there were people in one of the galleries when people suddenly came in and filled the chamber, and the Lord Mayor took the decision to abandon the meeting so a lot of important business . . . had to be adjourned.”
Protesters continued to occupy the main council chamber for more than 30 minutes, but the protest remained peaceful and ended without incident with the group dispersing around 6.45pm.