Last night Occupy Galway, the last Occupy camp left in Ireland, was dismantled by up to 50 gardai, helped by council workers. The operation took place at approximately 4.30am, when there were around six protesters in the camp. One man was arrested, while access to the square was restricted for a time.
The action came just a day after Galway City Council passed a motion on Monday evening stating that the camp should be removed ahead of the finale of the Volvo Ocean Race, which visits the city at the end of next month. The council’s director of services Ciarán Hayes said plans for the camp’s removal had been in place for sometime.
Protesters planned a meeting at 1pm today at the former campsite, which drew a small crowd. Controversial Fine Gael councillor Padraig Conneely, a long-standing opponent of camp, was heckled by protesters as he became embroiled in a heated debate with some members of Occupy Galway.
Paul Murphy, of the camp, was sanguine about the fortunes of Occupy Galway.
“Certainly in Ireland we have nothing to be too down about because we have the household charge where a million people didn’t pay, which is the largest act of civil disobedience since the state was set up. There’s a referendum coming up, we hope people will vote no, I think people will vote no,” he said.
He remained proud of what the Occupy movement has achieved.
“It was brilliant in the sense that it was actually addressing the root cause of the problems,” Mr Murphy said. “We all have campaigns, you know, stop the cuts in education, stop the cuts in healthcare. It’s the real roots of the problems that Occupy worldwide has addressed, i.e, the banking scheme in general, the whole pyramid scheme that is the capitalist structure that we have today.”
He also said that he believed the existence of Occupy Galway was important in influencing future political ideas.
“I’m a firm believer that, whether people participate in it or not, people do notice these things,” he said.
“The general ethos of Occupy will continue on. The whole idea that there was this protest, there was these people camping out, catches people. People like to think of themselves in the middle, [thinking that capitalism is the only way] but then when you see not only the left wing, but this thing way out here, proteseting and marching against the system, it widens the perspective, maybe the balance does shift subconsiously to the left.”
“I think certainly it has made a difference, yes,” he added.
However, on Shop Street, the reaction was more mixed. Simon Fleming of Knocknacarra sympathised with the protesters. ”I didn’t have a problem with them being there, I thought it was an interesting aspect to the park, and a different voice. I don’t think it would have affected any of the businesses to be honest… It’s regrettable that they got kicked out in a way. I’m sorry to see them go, I guess,” he said.
Miriam Prendergast from Mayo was unsure. ”I don’t really know what to think of it. Has it sort of served its purpose maybe, and it’s time for it to go?” she said. Meanwhile, Canadian student Megan Barr was impressed by Occupy Galway’s staying power. ”They’ve been here as long as I’ve been here, and that’s impressive!”
Andrew Morrisson, from Claregalway, was also supportive of the movement. ”Fair play to them for occupying [Eyre Square] so long, because the Irish have a tendency not to have too much of a backbone these days about any of the government dealings. And I’m sure the next treaty is going to go ahead with a yes, regardless of what we really think,” he said.
Galway woman Pat McSweeney was not sorry to see Occupy Galway go. ”Well I feel a traitor for saying I totally agree, because I thought it [the Gardai removing them] looked dreadful. I felt maybe the people protesting were just hangers out on the dole who had nothing to do anyway,” she said. ”I mean I agree in theory, but what’s the point, it looks like we’re depending on these bloody banks. If the banks go, there’s be no social welfare paid out to people, there’d be no dole, there’d be no disability benefit. We don’t have an option, they have us by the tonsils, really.”
Aonghus O’Flaherty agreed. ”It ran its course. Seven months is enough. It was the last camp in Ireland, so I think it ran its course. They made their point and its time to clean up Eyre Square again,” he said. Ruán Kelly said that Occupy Galway’s methods were flawed. ”Yeah I think it’s good that they’re gone. They advocated political change but didn’t want to be a political party. You can’t advocate political change without being a political party,” he said.
To see photos of Eyre Square after the removal of Occupy Galway, click here.
This article appeared on Studenty.me on May 16 2012. Pictures my own, contact randomdescent for permissions.