Anti-water charge protesters say they have been snubbed and insulted after the deputy Lord Mayor of Cork refused to accept their petition of 15,000 Irish Water boycott signatures.
About 50 people gathered outside City Hall before last night’s council meeting as The People’s Convention (CPPC) tried to present the petition to the Lord Mayor, Cllr Mary Shields.
Ms Shields is abroad on city business and it is understood the deputy mayor, Cllr Ken O’Flynn, was left with instructions not to accept the petition.
City officials, who had asked the group to deliver the petition by post, also offered to accept it but the offer was declined.
Fianna Fáil councillors, the largest council grouping, led by Sean Martin (brother of party leader Micheál), and Fine Gael Cllr John Buttimer met the group outside and offered to accept the petition on behalf of the council.
But Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, secretary of the People’s Convention, refused to hand it to anyone other than the deputy mayor, or to someone designated by him.
“It is a snub to us, but more so to the people of Cork,” Mr Ó Cadhla said.
“We’ve collected close on 15,000 signatures – that’s a lot of people in Cork.
“They are due the respect of those who are elected to represent us, whether they agree with us or not.
“The least that should be done is that the peoples’ petition should be taken.
“But it’s reflective of what’s happened to politics in general in the city, and in the country. It’s a complete snub.”
Mr Martin said: “The members of the biggest group in the council chamber came down to accept the petition, to bring it to council and to pass it on to the relevant minister, and if that’s not good enough for Diarmaid, then fine. Diarmaid doesn’t have much respect for the democratic process anyway.”
Workers Party Cllr Ted Tynan said the council had effectively given “the two fingers” to those who had signed the petition.
Speaking during a debate on the issue at the council meeting later, Socialist Party Cllr Mick Barry, launched a stinging attack on the deputy mayor.
“The arrogant refusal of the deputy Lord Mayor to accept the petition or even send someone to accept the petition on his behalf is an insult to the thousands of people who signed it,” he said.
“But the mass boycott of water charges is now well underway whether the powers that be want to accept it or not.”
Anti water meter campaigners at City Hall to hand over a petition with 15,000 names but no one is here to accept it. pic.twitter.com/GEXlYskhdC— Alan Healy (@AlanHealy) May 25, 2015
But Mr O’Flynn defended his handling of the matter and said the office of Lord Mayor is ceremonial and should be above politics.
“The office is not to engage with political organisations, or to be seen to back one campaign or another. It’s certainly not a delivery system,” he said.
The People’s Convention maintained a protest outside City Hall for just over an hour before leaving and said they will meet tonight to decide their next course of action.
The group gathered the signatures in Cork over the last nine months.
The petition demands that local councils and individual members stand with the people against the imposition of water charges and encourage the non-payment of the charges.
Mr Ó Cadhla said he suspects the petition, which he described as “not insignificant”, won’t make much of a difference to the Government.
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