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Cobh gives USS Mitscher a night to remember

USS Mitscher at Deepwater Quay, Cobh

A candlelight vigil was held in Cobh last night (7/11/06) in protest at the presence in the port of a US guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher which saw service during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and was returning from NATO exercises of the coast of Scotland.
It started off small but the vigil, organised by Anti-War Ireland in Cobh swelled to nearly forty people in the end, almost all of them from the town and its hinterland. A photographer from the Irish Examiner turned up an hour before the vigil kicked off and was gone by the time most of the crowd had arrived hence that paper's report this morning of a dozen protesters.

Local dignatories and officials of the US embassy mostly crept through the back entrance to enjoy the good humoured protesters who held candles and sang along to the anti-war songs of American songster Pete Seeger and our own Christy Moore.

Cobh Mayor Noirín Doyle of the Labour Party gave the bash a miss, being deputised for by former Mayor Stella Meade of Fine Gael, however the Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. Michael Ahern of the Labour Party accorded the ship's captain, Bill McKinley, a civic reception in City Hall. The commander also visited the Port of Cork offices and the Headquarters of the Irish Army's Southern Command at Collins Barracks in the city.

As usual a large force of gardai, including armed detectives surveyed the scene in Cobh, two of them from the back of a speedboat which patrolled the area.

There was no repeat on this occasion of the US military coming onto the public road to vet visitors to the ship who were very few in number and public representatives were very thin on the ground. In fact the only politicos around were participating in the protest including Sinn Féin councillor Kieran McCarthy, Green Party Dáil candidate Sarah Iremonger and Passage West Councillor Dominic Donnelly, also of the Greens. There was also a good attendance from Anti-War Ireland and Cork Alliance Against War.

Two US army officers and a Special Branch detective had a list of local bigwigs who were invited to a reception onboard ship. Among those going aboard were long-time US military supporter and Cobh Chamber of Commerce smallwig John Mansworth (former head of the Vintners Federation of Ireland) who later emerged stony-faced through the protest as shouts of "Shame, shame" irritated his ears. Mansworth was clearly annoyed with the large presence of local protesters from Cobh which demolished his oft-repeated claim that the people of Cobh support such military visits. A lone heckler on a bicycle turned up at the end.

The demonstration lasted until 9.00pm, causing some gardai to miss their refreshment break but they made it to the local chip shop by ten past nine. A few brave souls stayed on in case some stragglers were still on board.

Cobh-based anti-war activist John Jefferies of Anti-War Ireland and Cork Harbour Against Warship Visits, who had provided the music and candles thanked all those who had turned up and gave up a good part of their evening to make their feelings about the war known to the US military. No doubt the US embassy in Dublin is already reporting back to Washington about a night to remember in Cobh.

USS Mitscher - A dedicated killing machine