Tánaiste's car egged in protest
The Tánaiste and Minister for Children were forced to abandon an event in west Dublin this morning after their car was attacked by protesters.
Eamon Gilmore and Frances Fitzgerald were due address children from across the city at the screening of a short Unicef film, It’s About You, explains the forthcoming referendum on children’s rights to young people.
However, when the car arrived at the event at the Base Youth Centre in Ballyfermot, a crowd of about 30 protesters from republican group Éirígí and People Before Profit surrounded the vehicle. They were calling on the Government not to cut child benefit and home help hours.
Members of Éirigí began to kick the car and an egg was thrown on the windscreen. “You and your cuts are not wanted here,” they shouted.
There were several gardaí at the scene, but they were unable to hold back the protesters.
The car was stopped for about five minutes, but the Ministers could not leave because the protesters were surrounding the car, which was eventually driven away.
A Government spokesman said the Ministers decided not to return because of concerns for the safety of schoolchildren at the launch. The screening then proceeded without them.
In a statement, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he had been informed of “disgraceful behaviour” in Ballyfermot this morning.
He said that despite the fact that this was an event organised for children, protesters engaged in violence, thuggery and shouted expletives.
A 28-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage of a ministerial car, a Garda spokesman said. He was remanded on bail at Dublin District Court this afternoon.
Among those protesting were Éirígí Dublin city councillor Louise Minihan, who was imprisoned for seven days earlier this year for not paying a €1,500 fine for throwing paint on former minister for health Mary Harney. However, Ms Minihan stood back from the car and was not involved in today's attack.
She did “not condone” people getting involved as people were “very angry” and Labour had come back into power on “false promises”, she told The Irish Times. “This protest is especially about the cuts to child benefit. People know this Labour Party got into Government on false promises. People can’t cope with any more cuts.”
People Before Profit councillor, Gino Kenny, who also did not get involved in the scuffles, said it showed people were “very, very angry about what’s happening in this country”.
However, Dublin South Central Labour TD Michael Conaghan condemned the “thuggish actions” of protesters and said those who tried to disrupt the event do not represent Ballyfermot.
Dublin South Central Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne described protesters as “a gang of thugs” and described the scenes as “ugly and intimidating”. The Tánaiste’s car was “spat on, egged, kicked, and rocked”, she said in a statement.
Ms Byrne said she would write to the Dublin City manager calling on Ms Minihan to be expelled from the council and to highlight her “disgust” at the actions of an elected representative.
Mr Shatter said “such thuggery and violence cannot and will not be tolerated in a free society”.
“We all recognise the right to peaceful protest. But it must represent a new low, even for the protesters involved, that they would engage in such disgraceful behaviour designed to disrupt an event organised for children and do so with complete disregard for the affect of their actions on the children,” he said.
“These individuals clearly have no respect for democratic values, for individual rights of freedom of expression and are clearly incapable of recognising the importance of the Children’s Rights Referendum and of ensuring that both adults and children have available to them the fullest information relating to it.”
Mr Shatter called on People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett to “condemn without equivocation the actions of the protesters” and give an assurance that his movement will no longer target events involving children.
Additional reporting: PA
* Video below contains strong language