Barrett to decide action over assault at UCD

 

The immigration-control and anti-abortion campaigner, Mr Justin Barrett, will decide today whether to make a formal statement to gardaí after being assaulted at a debate in UCD. Kitty Holland reports.

In the incident on Wednesday night at the L&H Society in the college, Mr Barrett was dragged to the ground, kicked and punched by up to five members of the audience. He was about to speak in favour of a motion supporting tighter immigration controls.

For the first time in the L&H's history the debate had to be adjourned without a vote.

Mr Joe Duffy, of RTÉ's Liveline programme, who was chairing the debate, described the incident as "nasty".

He said eight people had spoken, including Áine Ní Chonaill of the Immigration Control Platform and Philip Watt of the Immigration Control Platform and Mr Barrett was the second last on the agenda. At that point Ms Rosanna Flynn of Residents Against Racism (RAR) got to her feet in the audience and asked, "Is this man going to be allowed to speak?", at which point about five people moved towards Mr Barrett and jostled him to the ground.

"I don't know where they came from. There was no warning of it at all. Up until then it had been a very level-headed debate.

"They were spread throughout the audience. They obviously had it well planned. A few were wearing very heavy kicking boots and I don't know, I think a few did connect with [ hit] him," said Mr Duffy.

Mr Barrett said he was "not really hurt. I was punched in the face. They were shouting abuses at me, 'No free speech for fascists' - that kind of thing. These people are supposed to be the apostles of tolerance. Well we've seen the true face of them."

College security intervened and Mr Barrett was accompanied safely from the venue. "I will sit down tomorrow and decide whether to go to the gardaí about it," he said.

Ms Flynn told The Irish Times no one from RAR was involved in violence or the apparent physical attack on Mr Barrett. She said the meeting should have been cancelled, adding she had written to other speakers asking them not to share a platform with Mr Barrett.

She did not see violence being perpetrated on Mr Barrett, but when asked if she would condemn it she said: "I am not going to condemn anyone."

The auditor of the L&H, Mr Frank Kennedy, said he had received no request from any party not to invite Mr Barrett.

"One of Mr Barrett's major contentions is that he is misunderstood. Well how is he to right that if he is not given an opportunity to speak?"

He questioned whether those behind the attack believed in free speech if they "appointed themselves as sole arbiters of who should be allowed to speak".