Sinn Féin’s Chris O’Leary welcomed members of The People’s Convention to City Hall yesterday, accepted their petition, and agreed to deliver it to Dáil Eireann on Thursday week when he is due in Dublin to attend the national launch of the 1916 commemorations.
“It was the civilised thing to do,” Mr O’Leary said.
The petition, gathered in the city over several months, calls on Cork City Council to represent the people in their opposition to water charges.
The previous Lord Mayor, Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Mary Shields, refused to receive the petition last May, sparking a series of protests and calls for her resignation as first citizen.
Her stance and the subsequent protests which included an invasion of the council chamber and the abandonment of a council meeting, has resulted in an increased security presence in and around City Hall and tighter access control protocols for council meetings.
Ms Shields argued at the time the mayoral office should be above politics, and that The People’s Convention should be directing their petition at Dáil Eireann or Irish Water.
She stood over her position again yesterday but stopped short of criticising the current mayor for accepting the petition. “I have no regrets over my actions. The mayor can make up his own mind but I would do exactly the same again,” Ms Shields said.
She also criticised members of The People’s Convention for “invading” the council chamber, for interrupting the work of democratically elected public representatives, and for forcing the abandonment of council meetings.
But Mr O’Leary said he wanted to recognise the fact that 22,000 citizens of Cork had signed a petition calling on the city council to support a boycott of Irish Water.
“And I, as the chair of the council, felt it was my civic duty to accept the petition and pass it on to the next level,” he said.
“I’m not going to criticise the previous mayor, but I do think differently.”
Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, secretary of The People’s Convention (CPPC), said they were delighted Cllr O’Leary had accepted the petition.
“It is proper order. The voice of the people must be heard and it is the duty of our elected representatives to listen and take heed,” he said. “Families throughout Cork are angry. The water charge has come to reflect all of the wrongs of recent years and people are determined that it shall not pass.
“People are angry at the waste that has taken place through Irish Water.
“Privatisation of this valuable resource is seen as just another way to make the people pay the cost of the banking crisis.
“The biggest issue with Irish Water is that it reveals how undemocratic our state has become, the majority object to this policy yet government insists on enforcing it.”