Protesters take empty offices for community use


MEMBERS OF the Occupy Cork protest movement have taken control of what they claim is a Nama property in Cork city centre.

The group has announced plans to turn the glass-fronted building into a community resource centre.

Members of the Occupy Cork group claim an unknown person left keys to the building, along with instructions, under a Christmas tree at their protest camp on Christmas Day.

Members of the group subsequently gained access to the six-storey property and have remained on site. The group now plans to turn the vacant property into a community resource centre, with space for classrooms, recording studios, alternative health tuition, a library, training and skills courses, a creche and a pop-up restaurant and cafe.

Up to 30 members of the group were in the building last night, some wearing high visibility jackets and doubling up as security workers. A petition calling on the building to be retained for civic use has also been launched online.

Liam Mulvaney, of the Occupy Cork movement, said: “The keys to the building were a present which we found in a box under our tree on the Grand Parade. There was a key inside it and instructions that the building was to be used. What we hope to create is a true civic space run by the people, for the people, with a resource that belongs to the people.

“Nama has spoken about social dividend all year and we have seen little or none of this materialising.”

A Nama spokesperson could not say if loans related to the building were controlled by the agency.

Members of the group occupying the building say they will apply for public liability insurance to enable them to open it to the public.

“As caretakers of the building we are providing security and we intend to not alter the structure in any way, only to enhance it,” said Mulvaney.

“While we wait for our public liability insurance to come through we will not hold the previous caretakers responsible in any way. We hope to negotiate and develop this site with the co-operation of the respective bodies.”

Another member of the group, Pat Buckley, hopes to begin suicide-awareness workshops in the building in the coming weeks.

In a press release, the group says the centre will be officially opened to the public on January 23rd, while an open day is planned before then.

A Nama spokesperson said: “Nama doesn’t own buildings so it is the responsibility of the owner or the receiver to organise its security. It is not something Nama directly involves itself in. If it is a Nama property, ultimately Nama will raise the matter with the owners.”

The building is Stapleton House, on Oliver Plunkett Street, which is for let through estate agent Sherry FitzGerald.

The agent describes it as an “iconic 25,000sq ft development” with a variety of offices which “provide complete flexibility, whilst the unique glazed exterior, high-tech systems and finishes create one of the most modern working environments in Cork’s commercial district”.