Saturday, March 10, 2012
Occupy protests in two Irish cities have been cleared in the last two days. Dublin’s Occupy Dame Street was cleared by police while the local council cleared the abandoned Occupy Waterford site.
The early hours of Thursday saw the Dublin site raided and cleared by Gardai (police). Gardai cited health and safety concerns over the camp, with St Patrick’s Day festivities planned. Irish tourism minister Leo Varadkar previously called it “disappointing” the campers would not move while the celebrations were ongoing. “I understand they feel very strongly about their politics but I’m sure they don’t want to damage the festival,” Varadkar said.
“[Our] priority is to ensure that all of St Patrick’s Day events and celebrations pass off smoothly and that all participants and the large crowds of spectators at the parade can access and egress the parade route without a risk or threat to their health and safety,” said a Garda statement. They claimed to have asked for “assistance and co-operation, however this was not forthcoming,” and said it took hours to clear the site. The clearance began at 3:30 am local time.
A single arrest was made but the individual was released without charge. Around 100 officers cleared the site, which almost filled the plaza before the Central Bank. Cleaners later cleared all signs of the camp. It had been in place since October, but pallets and solid structures replaced the usual tents of Occupy protests earlier this year in response to local weather. Fifteen people who had been staying overnight were removed.
“We are not stopping any time soon, it’s all hands on deck now, we are going to carry on”, vowed protestor Saoirse Bennet, who was on-scene when police arrived.
Waterford City Council yesterday dismantled the empty camp in their city while Gardai looked on. The quayside protest was abandoned after internal disputes; only two youths and a homeless person were found in the 5:30 am raid, but at one stage the protest had 40 residents. Gardai took the youths “home to their parents,” said a spokesman. “The people we found there had nothing to do with Occupy Waterford.” Needles and drugs were found, but nobody was arrested.
Occupy Galway may be the next to go: After months of tolerance, Galway City Council have claimed “serious health and safety concerns” justify legal eviction proceedings if the camp does not pack up voluntarily. John Walsh of Occupy Galway said the camp was lawful and would remain.