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Cork Harbour Against Warship Visits
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Many Cobh residents woke to the strains of Johnny Cash belting out his 1960s hit "Ring of Fire" over the public address system of USS The Sullivans as she left the Deepwater Quay in Cobh on Tuesday, 11/7/06 around 7.15 after her eventful weekend in Cork Harbour.

Last night less than half of the reported 50 invited local worthies turned up to a reception on board ship on Monday night. Many of those were visibly embarrassed at having to pass anti-war protesters. Only four of the nine members of Cobh Town Council were seen going aboard ship. These were Mayor Noirin Doyle (Labour) who arrived with her immediate predecessor Stella Meade (Fine Gael). FG Councillor Paddy Whitty and his wife arrived later while Councillor Michael Keating (Fianna Fail) was seen to approach the entrance, only to turn on his heels and go in the back way.

It was only a week earlier, on the night of her election as Mayor of Cobh, that Councilor Doyle urged local residents to "adopt a flower bed" on the nearby Five Foot Way walkway as the council didn't have enough funds or staff to maintain it. Ironically it was Councillor Doyle's friends in the US navy that saw to it that the Five Foot Way was closed for three successive days.

Also going to last night's reception were senior members of the Irish Naval Service (a neutral country?) and top brass from the semi-state Port of Cork company. Senior local authority and tourism figures were also in attendance. A noted absence was Titanic Trail supremo Michael Martin (former PDFORRA representative and now Cobh Tourism's public face.

Two of the ship's company operated a stall selling souvenirs from the USS Sullivan, including sweatshirts (from sweatshops no doubt), pens, zippo lighters and the mandatory baseball caps. Prices were displayed in Euros with 25 Euro being the price of a sweatshirt. Only two or three souvenirs were sold and by 7pm the stallholders closed up shop. Some of the worthies from the Irish navy and council were seen leaving later with similar trophies.

I took some photographs of the stall and one of the US stall operators repeatedly ordered me to stop taking his photograph. I refused and he then told me to "get out of here", I reminded him that I was a resident of Cobh and a citizen of Ireland and that he should get out of here, taking his ship with him.

On three occasions I had to complain to gardai that the US military personnel had strayed outside the cordon and were now controlling people on the public road. I have made a formal complaint on this matter to the gardai and will also raise it with the Departments of Justice and the Taoiseach.

Contrary to reports posted by on Indymedia troll, 12-16 people attended Sunday afternoons protest, while a smaller crowd of locally based protesters staged an impromptu demo on Monday, one stalwart spending most of the two days there.

Reporters and photographers from several local media outlets attended, including the Evening Echo, Southern Star, Imokilly People and Inside Cobh. 96FM also covered the demo on Saturday but RTE was nowhere to be seen. (Derek Davis had come and gone a few days before).

A few other interesting snippets from the visit of USS the Sullivans:-

~ Among the many buses bringing ships crew on tours around Cork / Kerry on Saturday was one with a window notice "Agro Tours / Ohio" - very apt

~ US military personnel visited Haulbowline (the mess / bar no doubt) on Saturday night

~ one time RTE presenter Gerri McLoughlin went aboard and reported that the food was delicious. She was not embarrased by the invasion and occupation of Iraq, she stated.

~ Councillors Kieran McCarthy (Sinn Fein) and Paddy Histon (Independent) boycotted the piss-up.

~ A pod of eight bottle-nosed dolphins which has been visiting the harbour in recent days also boycotted the bash.