Irish language activist and co-opted Cobh county councillor Diarmaid Ó Cadhla was speaking yesterday after he was released without charge following several hours of questioning by gardaí on Monday about his role in the Cork Street Name Campaign’s activity in early February.
A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Mr Ó Cadhla yesterday described his arrest and detention as “unnecessary, vindictive and disproportionate”.
“We have obviously upset the city fathers. My arrest and detention were not needed because I freely admitted my part in painting over the street signs,” he said.
“I will face charges, if they come. I have never tried to avoid it. I am prepared to answer for my behaviour in defence of the self-respect of the people of Ireland.”
Mr Ó Cadhla was part of a group which painted over several ‘Victoria’ street signs in the city in early February.
They posted photographs and video of the activity on social media, describing it as “direct action to remove the name of Victoria, the Famine Queen, from street name signs in Cork”.
Gardaí launched an investigation on foot of a complaint, and Mr Ó Cadhla was arrested after presenting himself by appointment at the Bridewell Garda Station just before 6pm on Monday.
He said he was photographed, fingerprinted, and had a DNA sample taken, before his belt and shoes were removed, and he was placed in a holding cell.
Mr Ó Cadhla, who conducts his business with the State through Irish, insisted that the Garda interview be conducted through Irish.
He criticised the tone of the questioning and said he was shown photographs of the defaced signs, was asked who else was involved in the campaign, and whether he would repay city council the estimated €800 cost to repair the damage.
“Whatever we did in this campaign has touched a nerve and the message seems to be to ‘rap these guys on the knuckles’. I think they adopted this approach in an effort to teach us a lesson,” he said.
But while he accepts his role in the activity, he said he will deny it amounts to criminal damage, describing it as an act of civil disobedience.
Mr Ó Cadhla, who has since been co-opted onto Cork County Council, has stepped back from his role as spokesperson for the campaign, launched last October to rename Cork streets which commemorate British “aristocrats and war criminals” after Irish heroes.
But he said he still supports the motivations behind it.
Campaign spokesman Tony Walsh said they will meet this evening to discuss their next steps.