The evening of Monday the 28th February saw members of the Cork CAHWT walk from the Imperial Hotel on the South Mall to the City Council chambers at City Hall. We entered the public galleries of the council to remind the councillors of our continued intention to boycott the unfair and unjust property tax and the coming water taxes.
The entry of members of the public, had unfortunately disrupted the end of a meeting/film-showing on "The Gathering 2013" in Cork. This is the series of events which will be opened in Cork with the Diarmuid Gavin-designed €2.3m "Sky Garden"; this at a time when Cork is ravaged by job losses, shop closures, potholed roads and derelect sites on the city’s main thoroughfares. Not to mention numerous cuts to public services and the outcome of a brutal budget targeting those on lower and middle incomes.
Councillor John Buttimer, the Fine Gael Whip, would respond to this surprising interruption by telling protester they were not allowed to speak in the chamber. They must sit mute and listen to the councillors complete their meeting.
The protesters responded, with appropriate decorum and clarity, that they have the right to have their voices heard in their council. People from CAHWT branches throughout the city and county would pose questions on the austerity cuts, the austerity agenda, the paying of billions out to bond-holders and the unjust "bail-out taxes" otherwise known as the property and water taxes. Councillors were asked to respond to these points but the FG/FF/Lab controlled council refused. Chants of "answer the question", "axe the tax", "No way, we won't pay,” and “Labour out” followed and resounded around the council chamber. Flags with slogans were unfurled over the gallery sidings.
Before too long, the meeting was announced abandoned. Yet the brass-necked Fianna Fáil Councillors, Terry Shannon, Sean Martin, Tony Fitzgerald and Labour's Denis O’Flynn all refused to leave the chamber after the meeting was long adjourned. An Alamo style standoff ensued until the left public gallery emptied down to the bottom floor. This left only one occupied public gallery on the opposite side of the chamber with the huddle of cllrs on the floor of the chamber below.
Eric Hayes a member of the Workers Solidarity Movement and branch secretary of Ballyphehane CAHWT branch was at the protest, and in this last public gallery, and stated that " One public gallery had decided to move to outside the chamber doors, leaving us as the lone occupied gallery. Mick Barry came up to us and informed us we could also vote to leave the gallery, and wait for the remaining Councillors to leave of their own accord. A discussion was held resulting in the gallery voting against moving – we would move once the Councillors moved. The Mexican stand-off continued with Councillors moving to the doors, then returning to their seats when chants were issued from the gallery. Eventually the councillors moved out of the chamber but would point childishly, aggressively and rudely up to the gallery on their way out. The protestors then regrouped outside the chamber and exited City Hall. Cork CAHWT has reaffirmed its commitment to boycotting the Property Tax and direct action like this cannot be ignored by our elected representatives. I hope that similar protests and direct actions are matched by other local campaign branches nationwide. "