Protesters trap Ministers in car at film screening

Sat, Oct 6, 2012, 01:00

TWO GOVERNMENT Ministers last night criticised protesters who prevented them from attending an event in Ballyfermot, Dublin, yesterday.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald were due to address children at a screening of a short Unicef film, It’s About You, aimed at young people, which explains the forthcoming referendum on children’s rights.

As the Ministers’ car approached the venue, some of the 30 protesters surrounded it, shouting expletives and telling Mr Gilmore and Ms Fitzgerald: “You and your cuts are not wanted here.”

The protesters were demonstrating against proposed cuts to child benefit, home help hours and special needs assistants.

Though members of both People Before Profit and the nationalist Éirigí organisations protested, the former group stood back while members of Éirigí began to kick the Ministers’ car and an egg was thrown on the windscreen.

A small number of gardaí took about three minutes to push people back from the car to allow it to drive away. The screening proceeded without the Ministers.

However, a number of the children from Ballyfermot visited Iveagh House later in the day and performed their rap lyrics and a recitation on the referendum for the two Ministers.

Commenting on the protest at The Base youth centre on Blackditch Road, Mr Gilmore said: “I have no difficulty at all with people having a peaceful, dignified protest, but this turned very aggressive and we were physically prevented from going into the event. I think that that’s a great shame.”

Ms Fitzgerald said: “We live in a democracy and we had 100 young people inside in The Base, in a youth centre, waiting to have an event that had been planned.

“The local community had spoken to the people who were protesting and they had said they would do it in a peaceful way that would allow access for everyone and they didn’t do that, and I think it’s unacceptable.”

Peter Power, executive director of Unicef and former minister of state for overseas development, said there was an “absolute necessity to involve young people in this referendum campaign”. He said it was “ironic” that some young people were denied the right of free speech earlier in the day.