Two Cork City councillors, who were among five anti-property tax protesters arrested yesterday for occupying a bank, say they are proud of their actions.
Socialist Party Cllr Mick Barry and Cllr Ted Tynan of the Workers’ Party were arrested for refusing to leave the Bank of Ireland branch on St Patrick’s Street during a lunchtime protest.
They were arrested for a breach of the peace under Section 6 of the Public Order Act, and were cautioned at the Bridewell Garda Station, before being released without charge.
A spokesperson for Bank of Ireland declined to comment on the incident.
The men said they are prepared for the consequences if charges are brought against them.
“It’s better to break the law than to break the poor and if it’s necessary to take actions like this, to fight this tax, then actions like this will be taken,” said Mr Barry.
“This was a peaceful protest. It’s the top bankers who should be arrested — not the people who are standing up for the ordinary person.”
Mr Tynan said: “We have to make a stand at some stage. What do we do, stand back and leave this process of austerity continue?”
Jim O’Connell, from Garrettstown Co Cork, who was also arrested, said: “It’s our duty to protest against unjust laws.”
James Hallinan and Brian Gould were also arrested. Mr Gould said he would prefer not to be charged: “It’s obviously not something I’m looking forward to but, if it happens and I end up in court, I hope it will show the injustice of the whole system.
“If the Government wants money, there are better ways to get it than crucifying the ordinary person.”
The men were among about 50 members of the Campaign Against Home and Water Taxes who gathered outside the bank.
They were protesting against the introduction of the property tax at a time when the banks are being bailed out and a package of €843,000 is being paid to Richie Boucher, the boss of the 15%-State-owned Bank of Ireland.
The two politicians were then part of a group of about 20 who, despite Garda instructions, entered the bank.
Mr Tynan said he apologised to bank officials, staff, and customers, and outlined their intentions. But they refused to obey Garda instructions to leave and were arrested.
Four of the men were conveyed the short distance to the Bridewell in a Garda van but Mr Barry was escorted by gardaí up Paul St, and along the Coal Quay, to the station. All were released without charge a short time later.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Barry said he hopes the protest will focus national attention on their campaign which was timed to coincide with May Day.
“I feel I’ve done nothing wrong,” said Mr Barry.
“In fact, I feel proud for taking a stand for what’s going on in this country.”
One bank worker said some staff felt intimidated during the protest.
And, as Mr Barry was being led from the bank’s rear door, one protester shouted abuse at a bank official and spat at his feet.
Mr Tynan condemned that act. “It was wrong, it was nasty and it was uncalled for. He did that as an individual. He does not represent the views of the campaign.”
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