Anti-water charge protester stops council meeting

Diarmaid Ó Cadhla of People’s Convention cites council decision to remove group’s posters

Cork City Council had to abandon its meeting on Monday night for the second time in a fortnight after an anti-water charge protester refused to leave the council chamber.

Diarmaid Ó Cadhla of the People's Convention said he was protesting at the council's decision to remove the group's posters advertising a march they are to hold against water charges.

Earlier, Mr Ó Cadhla was one of some 10 members of the People’s Convention who had staged a sit-in and blocked access to the chamber for several hours in protest over the council’s decision.

When the council meeting was about to begin at 5.30pm, he entered the chamber and sat in front of the podium from which the Lord Mayor chairs the meeting, and refused to leave.


Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Kenneth O'Flynn, of Fianna Fáil, suspended the meeting for 15 minutes to allow the party whips to discuss what to do with regard to the protest, which was supported by about 20 others in the public gallery.

When councillors returned, Cllr O’Flynn announced it had been agreed to adjourn the meeting and said it was highly regrettable that people were preventing the council from doing its work.

Cllr O’Flynn said members of the council had been elected last year by the people of Cork city to do a job, but they were now being prevented from doing it for the second time in a fortnight.

Dozen gardaí

About a dozen gardaí attended at City Hall where the council had deployed extra security staff, but the protest passed off peacefully with protesters dispersing after the council meeting was abandoned.

Speaking to the press afterwards, Cllr O’Flynn said Mr Ó Cadhla and his group were damaging the democratic process by their actions and preventing the council from attending to its business.

“Having to cancel a second successive meeting is an absolute disaster for us here in the council – we have agendas to get through and we have issues to deal with that are important for the city.

“We have umpteen things to announce to the council and get agreement on, and this is stopping us from doing our day-to-day business and it delays everything for the people of Cork,” he added.

Responding to a question about what his protest had achieved, Mr Ó Cadhla acknowledged it had achieved very little, as the council had failed to address the group’s concerns about postering.

He said the council had removed some 500 posters belonging to the People’s Convention before Christmas, along with a further 180 in the past week advertising an anti-water charge rally on March 14th.

“The council has taken our property and we want to know when are they going to give it back to us, and we want a commitment from them they won’t interfere with our legal and democratic rights.

‘Achieved nothing’

“But they won’t even talk to us, so in reality we have achieved nothing. I know the meeting is disrupted, which is regrettable: we don’t want to disrupt anything, but this is a serious issue.

“If you don’t have a right to free assembly and the right to organise that assembly, as in organise and advertise public meetings, then it has very serious repercussions for democracy in this country.

“The issue isn’t over - we will keep on postering and we won’t be asking permission, because that implies the council has the right to refuse. Where does that lead us? So we won’t do that.”

Mr Ó Cadhla said he estimated the council had confiscated somewhere in the region of €2,500 worth of posters from the group, which it could ill afford to lose.

Mr Ó Cadhla said no political group in Cork ever had to get permission to put up posters, and alleged the council was unfairly targeting the People’s Convention.

Cllr Lil O'Donnell of the Anti-Austerity Alliance said the abandonment of the council meeting could have been averted if "people had been sensible" and negotiated an agreement.

‘Quite justified’

“From what people have told me, I think the People’s Convention are quite justified in trying to get their property back - they have little resources - they should have got their posters back.”

However, Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy said the People’s Convention had come up with its own “rule of law” with regard to postering which ignored the general agreement in place.

“Everyone knows if you want to go postering in the city you must contact the council. Maybe there was leeway before, but the council has tightened up its bylaws and people should abide by them.

“I firmly believe that people are entitled to protest once they do it properly, but the council has bent over backwards to listen to Mr Ó Cadhla - but this sort of tactic of blitzing the city is just not on.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times