All posts by Save Kilkenny

Margaret O’Brien Blog Aug’14

August 20th 2014:

Citizens engaging with The CAS protest have been vilified, firstly for being ‘lazy’, ‘didn’t engage’, ‘didn’t care’ …..blithely sidestepping the fact that this CAS project, in different guises, has been on Co. Development Plans since the 70s, and never came to fruition, due in no small part to the level of ‘public engagement’ from ‘lazy’ people. Now when citizens actively engage as our government encourages ‘active citizens’ to do, these same citizens are further vilified…..for being too loud…they are not a majority… seems you can only be a majority when you are silent!

These citizens have been vilified for being undemocratic because they dare to to raise their heads above the parapet and ask that democracy be seen to be done, in the Council Chamber. These citizens, ordinary people from all walks of life, in Kilkenny city, have been vilified because they dare to question and undermine the ever-changing rationales offered to drive this project on. These ordinary people have been constructed and policed as criminals because they dared to attempt to slow down work on a project, signed off on before the their newly representatives had an opportunity to raise the voices of the people in the council chamber. What would the outcome of such a debate have been had it taken place before the contract was signed, the state of play that existed at election time? We will never know because it never happened. The unelected Council Executive made an Executive decision to ensure it could not happen. And yet it is the ordinary people, the citizens who are vilified and criminalised!!

Now these same ordinary people are demonised because their efforts to be treated as equal citizens, to be heard and to be listened to, to simply have their arguments taken into account are said to be costing money. Let’s look at this particular attempt at demonisation. Firstly, the figure changes, is manipulated, from day to day, from week to week. Like much else with this project, it is a movable feast. Secondly what is this it for? Cost of deliveries not being made! All deliveries have been made. It is true that some have been slowed down, but these costs are born by the Contractor, as per the contact. The cost of protest interference, security, site safety, etc. is the responsibility of the contractor and should be covered in the contract price. It is common practice for contractors, on projects such as this, to take out insurance to cover events such as civil protest. If the Executive of Kilkenny County Council have chosen to employ additional security, above what the contractor costed for, then that is their very deliberate choice. But why would they do this you ask, deliberately choose to incur additional cost to the tax payer? For site security…is likely to be their reply. And yet not even one person involved in this campaign has ever even attempted to access the site at any time, or to interfere with machinery or works in any way, other than to slow down deliveries. In fact these ordinary people have good relationships, at least up to recently, with both the workers and the security men at the site. So again then why would the Executive choose to incur additional unnecessary expense? Could it be a deliberate attempt to tar the ordinary people campaigning as threatening, as irresponsible, as deviants? And if this were the case why would it be so? Perhaps because change is difficult for institutions to handle and they overreact and react inappropriately? Perhaps because the Executive and Council members are uncomfortable with democracy being conducted in public? Perhaps because silent majorities are easiest managed? …

Perhaps a PR exercise?

If this campaign has in fact generated any real additional costs, in and of itself alone, it is again down to the choice of the Executive, to sideline the democratic process.

The most recent attempt at marginalisation, that all of the ordinary people involved in this campaign are represented by Green Party, Sinn Fein and Independent councillors only, thus the call to these elected members and only these elected members to intercede. What this particular and unsubtle attempt at marginalisation attempts to do is to imply, that only fringe minorities are involved in this campaign. What an insult to the citizenry! Nothing could be further from the truth. The majority of the ordinary citizens involved, in this democratically driven campaign, are Fianna Fail and Fine Gael supporters and voters. Whether they will continue to be so in the future is however another question. What is in fact true here is that some individual councillors choose to enshrine their own individual views on this project as fact, rather than the views of those who elect them.

Those involved in this campaign have been vilified at all levels, except where it matters most, on the streets, with the people, whose encouragement, support and ‘thank you for what you are doing’, gives the campaign the legitimacy and energy to continue. In recent days, last Monday’s vote on a ‘technicality’ has been mediated, in some quarters as a vote on the CAS project itself. This is untrue. There has still been no democratic engagement in the chamber on this issue, in the lifetime of this council. However, Monday’s vote seems to have given license to the private security company at the site, to act with impunity. This is unacceptable in any democracy. If as the Executive claim, that they are paying this force, then they are directly responsible for employing a private army, to silence this campaign. Is this what democracy in Kilkenny has come to? It really is time for all elected members and the Executive to engage with the citizenry. It should have happened a long time ago.