Occupy vows to maintain presence in Galway city


PROTESTERS HAVE vowed to maintain a presence in the centre of Galway city despite their camp being forcibly removed by a team of about 50 gardaí and council workers early yesterday.

Occupy Galway, at Eyre Square, the last remaining protest camp of its type in the Republic, had been in position for seven months.

More than 300 wooden pallets were among the items removed by council workers when they arrived at the camp at about 4.30am yesterday. “We were given about 30 seconds to get our stuff before they started smashing the place,” said protester John Clarke.

Gardaí cordoned off Eyre Square and blocked all roads as the council staff set about dismantling the camp, which included a large marquee and about 10 tents. Gardaí reported that there were six people in the camp, although some protesters said there were about a dozen.

All of their belongings were taken away by council workers and trucks and diggers spent several hours clearing the paved area.

The camp had originally been set up close to the Browne Doorway tourist attraction at the top of Eyre Square but moved position to allow the annual Christmas market to set up.

One man was arrested by gardaí but was later released. Gardaí reopened roads before morning rush hour but they maintained a presence throughout the morning.

Shortly after noon, just as an assembly was being organised by the protesters and their supporters, Galway City Council staff began re-erecting bicycle stands which had to be removed before Christmas when the encampment was relocated to that area of the square.

About 70 people, including some of the protesters who had been cleared from the site, participated in a lunchtime assembly close to the camp site.

Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely, an ardent opponent of the camp, was heckled by protesters when he arrived at the scene during the lunchtime gathering. “I think it is great to be able to walk through the square again. It is public property and these people should have been moved on a long time ago,” he said.

“This camp was an eyesore and while it is great that it is now gone before the Volvo Ocean Race arrives next month, it should have been cleared months ago.”

But Independent councillor Catherine Connolly criticised the removal of the camp and in particular the number of gardaí involved. “We are told we can’t get a guard or two for our community policing and yet there are 40 of them, including some special squad, available to move in on a group of people who are carrying out a peaceful protest. I admire the courage of these people, they took a stand and they should not have been treated like that,” she said.

The protesters said they would continue to have a presence in Eyre Square.