A number of the protesters moved into the Oliver Plunkett St unit on Christmas Day, claiming Santa Claus left the people of Cork a present of a key to the building.
“Santa left it to us, I wouldn’t argue with Santa... On Christmas morning, a box was found under the tree on Grand Parade with a key to the building, along with instructions that this building is a gift to the people of Cork,” said Liam, who said he was part of the wider Occupy movement.
The vacant building, close to Milano’s Restaurant, was owned by Padlake Ltd, a company headed up by developer Joe O’Donovan.
According to the squatters, representatives of Mr O’Donovan have not attempted to contact them since they inhabited the building.
“NAMA is supposed to be paying a social dividend. Well, nobody has seen any evidence of this social dividend, so we decided to provide it ourselves,” said Liam, who declined to give his surname.
The glass-fronted building runs over six floors and was designed to include 1,950sq m of retail space and 370sq m of office space.
Two gardaí visited the building yesterday where they questioned up to five of the protesters, who claim they are setting up Cork City Community Resource Centre, including a volunteer-led cafe aimed at joining the young and the old. They say the centre will open to the public at the end of January.
Alongside the Youth and Wisdom Cafe, their planned centre will include a bookshop, will host workshop events, offer library facilities, provide legal aid and advocacy services, and offer publishing facilities.
“This is a place owned by the people, for the people with the resources owned by the people. What we are trying to do here is all about the education, empowerment and enlivening of community on the island of Ireland,” said Liam.
He said up to 35 people have moved into the building over the past 10 days and that they have their own security personnel.
Pat Buckley, who set up the Let’s Get Together (LGT) support group for those affected by suicide, is also planning to set up an office at the site.
Mr Buckley set up LGT after he lost two of his brothers to suicide in 2002 and 2003.
The group have set up a website outlining how they came upon the building and how they intend to use it. * corkcitycentre.wordpress.com