Limerick councillor wants garda protection for local authority meetings

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

A CALL has been made to give city councillors the protection of the gardai after this week’s meeting was shouted down by anti-household charge protesters.

A CALL has been made to give city councillors the protection of the gardai after this week’s meeting was shouted down by anti-household charge protesters.

Labour’s leader on the council, Tom Shortt has said following a debate on the controversial €100 tax during Monday’s meeting, some of the people demonstrating “were making very intimidating approaches” to elected representatives.

And he says that when big delegations visit City Hall in future on controversial matters like this, there should be “a garda presence”.

He said that some councillors, and staff were left feeling afraid , and wanting garda intervention, following the chanting which ensued after a motion to debate the household charge was defeated by the Fine Gael/Labour majority.

Demonstrators chanted ‘No way, we won’t pay’, ‘Not a penny for Enda Kenny’, and ‘The banks got bailed out, we got sold out’.

This was as well as remonstrating with councillors, including Cllr Diarmuid Scully, who altered the motion to suggest the government introduce “a progressive” charge based on ability to pay next year.

On a number of occasions, Mayor Jim Long, who was in the chair, threatened to adjourn it.

But Cllr Shortt said: “There should have been a garda presence. People were making very intimidating approaches, and throwing insults. I heard from many staff [that there should be a garda presence].”

He added: “It was like a city square in there. There were a large number of people there, and there was the potential for that situation to spill over. We need the gardai there to keep a bit of order.”

Labour’s City East councillor Gerry McLoughlin stopped short of calling for a garda presence in meetings, but said he feared the demonstration “could spill out onto the street, and create anarchy.”

“There is nothing wrong with people presenting their feelings, but it must be done in a proper manner. The last thing we need is anarchy,” he said.

He also encouraged those people demonstrating at City Hall this week to “run for election if they think they can make a difference.”

But, he noted: “Some of these people did run in the last council elections, and did not get elected.”

Fine Gael’s City South councillor Ger Fahy said if gardai were present in the Chamber, it would send out the wrong message to the public.

“The public are entitled to attend council meetings, because there are public galleries there. I do not think this would send out the right message if we did have a garda presence there,” he told the Limerick Leader.

*See the Limerick Leader weekend edition for a full version of this story