Water charge protesters stormed a meeting of Cork City Council last night in solidarity with jailed campaigners in Dublin.
About 20 men pushed past security staff onto the floor of City Hall’s council chamber to demand members discuss the jailings.
Amid chaotic scenes, about 70 protesters chanted support from the other public gallery, leading to the meeting being cancelled. Lord Mayor Mary Shields said it was the only way to deal with the situation, saying the scenes were “akin to anarchy”.
The protest occurred as councillors were poised to discuss a motion proposed by AAA councillor Mick Barry calling on the council to oppose the jailing of the so-called Tallaght Five for contempt.
Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary, speaking on the motion when the protesters entered, criticised their tactics, which he called ill-advised and showing a lack of co-ordination.
“They over-reacted and showed poor judgement,” he said. “Their tactics took the power away from the city council which was, in my opinion, poised to become the first local authority in the country to brand as unacceptable the jailings of these men in Dublin.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Sean Martin also criticised their methods. “They talk about democracy and the democratic right of people but they didn’t have respect tonight for the democratic process,” said Mr Martin.
One of the protesters, Brian Gould, who is facing criminal damage charges linked to the anti-water charges campaign, defended their actions. He said they forced their way in after being refused access to one of the public galleries, which has been closed for health and safety reasons.
“We didn’t want to disrupt this meeting,” he said. “The councillors saw that one of the galleries was full and there was a crowd outside.”
Mr Barry said the protest demonstrated the depth of anger on the streets.
“If the powers that be want to jail anti-water charges campaigners and put them on 23-hour lockdown, then it’s not going to be business as usual and there isn’t a council meeting in the country that is off limits for protests such as this,” he said.
“A clear message has been sent out that campaigners demand the release of those jailed.”
Meanwhile, the hunger strike by three of the jailed water protesters in Wheatfield Prison in Dublin which began at the weekend has ended.
The Irish Examiner has learned the men — Derek Byrne, Paul Moore, and Damien O’Neill — took food as usual yesterday.
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