Council protest causes concern

by Gazette Reporter

MEASURES to ensure the safety of Fingal County Council staff may need to be increased following an anti-water charge protest outside the offices in Swords, according to the local authority chief executive, Paul Reid.
After the monthly council meeting on Monday, February 9, protesters prevented staff and councillors from leaving. Reid has said: “I want to reassure my staff that their personal safety is my priority at all times.”
Protesters with megaphones chanted throughout the meeting and could be heard from the chamber. They blocked the car park exit, preventing the councillors from leaving. Gardai were called and councillors left after being held up for about 90 minutes in all.
Cllr Jimmy Guerin (Ind) was the focus of some chanting because he tabled a motion which, while recognising people’s right to peaceful protest, condemned intimidation, bullying and violence against Irish Water workers and called on those involved to respect the workers and protest peacefully and within the law.
Protesters took exception to this motion, and chanted: “Jimmy Guerin, are you hearin’?”
Cllr Guerin told The Gazette that the protesters were perfectly within their rights. He said: “I am opposed to the water charges, so once the protests are peaceful I have no problem with them at all.
“The fact that they targeted me … I think they misunderstood the motion – the motion was specifically about the way [Irish Water] workers were being treated.
“If you stand for public office, you can be subject to that [public dissent] from time to time.
“It wasn’t intimidating. Maybe if other individuals heard their name being chanted in that manner, it might intimidate them, but I don’t find that at all intimidating.
“When I left the meeting afterwards there was a group [of protesters] at the car park and there was no abuse,” he said.
Of the protesters, Cllr Keith Redmond (FG) said: “There were about 20 or 30 of them, and they were blocking the car park, preventing cars from leaving. The gardai were called and as it turned out we had to stay there for an hour and a half before the protesters agreed to let us go.”
He added that Cllr Barry Martin (PBP) had encouraged the protest. He said: “Cllr Martin left the meeting various times and spoke with them. And, as far as I’m concerned, every time he came back in the noise level went up.”
However, Cllr Martin said: “I have protested at water protests with these activists within the water movement, so they are people I know and people I work with. I thought the protest was a good thing; I was encouraging it.
“The protesters … feel they are not being listened to. They are trying [to have water classed as] a human right; it’s a just cause.”

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