Protesters halt council meeting

Over a dozen gardaí had to be called to Cork’s City Hall last night to end a tense standoff caused after anti-household tax campaigners forced the abandonment of a council meeting.

It was the second time in three months that members of the Campaign Against Household and Water Tax interrupted a city council meeting.

At the last protest in October, campaigners occupied the council chamber, and the meeting resumed after gardaí cleared it.

But last night, the protesters remained in the public galleries after the meeting was abandoned.

Cllrs Terry Shannon, Sean Martin, Denis O’Flynn and others then refused to leave the chamber before the protesters, who continued to shout at the councillors from the public galleries.

Mr Martin said he and the other elected councillors would not be bullied. “It was a matter of principle for us in the end.”

The hour-long standoff ended when gardaí and city officials negotiated a compromise which saw the councillors leave the chamber at the same time the protesters left the gallery.

Kathleen Chute, 73, from Blarney St, was among the protesters. “I just haven’t got the money to pay. It’s only all the poor people are paying,” she said.

The protesters, from the Ballyphehane, Mallow and Fermoy branches of the campaign, arrived in the public galleries of the council chamber around 7.30pm.

They were welcomed by Lord Mayor John Buttimer who advised them they were not entitled to contribute to the meeting, and were not entitled to record proceedings.

But within minutes, several campaigners began shouting questions at councillors about the tax. They unfurled banners, and began chanting “no way, we won’t pay”, “Labour, Labour, Labour, out, out, out”, and “blue shirts out”.

The mayor suspended the meeting and a garda was called.

The protesters remained in the gallery chanting and shouting at councillors before four more gardaí arrived around 8.15pm, and stood inside the chamber.

Mr Buttimer tried to resume the meeting but abandoned it when it became clear that the protesters were not going to give up.

The campaigners warned government party councillors that their votes will collapse at the next local election if they proceed with property tax and austerity policies.

“We are ordinary members of the Cork public who have simply decided not to take it lying down anymore,” said campaign spokesman John Lonergan.

“We have just had our child benefit cut and our PRSI contributions hiked.

“We cannot afford to pay a property tax and will do everything in our power to fight it.”

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