Protesters who successfully halted two consecutive meetings of Cork City Council were nowhere to be seen last night, as councillors finally managed to come together, uninterrupted, to trawl through the vast array of items accumulated over the past month.
Various security precautions helped facilitate the long overdue gathering – a team of black-clad stern-faced men with earpieces ensured the scene at City Hall was not entirely unlike one from The West Wing, while a maze of locked doors and a cleverly utilized side entrance ensured only authorised personnel could gain access to the night’s locked down democracy.
The measures were implemented after Diarmuid Ó Cadhla, a representative of The People’s Convention, staged a lone protest in the council chambers on Monday and refused to leave, forcing the council to abandon their meeting.
The demonstration followed a day-long protest outside City – a direct result of a dispute over posters advertising an anti-water charges march this weekend.
The People’s Convention says the council removed these posters in a targeted attack on them, while a council spokesperson said the posters were erected without prior written permission, breaching Section 19(1) of the Litter Pollution Act.
“We have legal rights and democratic rights to organise public meetings which, repeatedly, management at city council have violated. They have instructed staff to go out at four o’clock in the morning removing posters advertising legitimate public meetings and this is in breach in law,” said Mr Ó Cadhla, speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.
“The issue is one of democracy. Are people entitled to organise freedom of assembly and have the effective means to realise that? Because if we don’t have the means to do it, then effectively we don’t have the right.”
Cllr John Buttimer (FG) said regulations were brought in to address the proliferation of posters following a number of complaints from the general public and organisations such as Irish Business Against Litter.
“People bang their heads off them, they’ve caused injury, they’ve fallen down and all the city council has done, and it has been in agreement with other groups, is in terms of a regulation around notification to city council that posters will be put up, the height, density and intensity of where they’re going to go. Nobody is preventing them at all.”
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