FF seeks answers from Garda on how intruder got into Áras

Woman who confronted President Higgins could have ‘wreaked havoc’ says Labour

 Áras an Uachtaráin. Photograph: Frank Miller

Áras an Uachtaráin. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Gardaí must explain why a woman who gained access to Áras an Uachtaráin and confronted the President was allowed to drive away without consequence, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan has said.

Labour justice spokesman Seán Sherlock said also expressed concern, saying someone intent on hurting the President “could have wreaked havoc”.

A security review has begun after the woman, who is believed to be a housing activist, drove through the front gate of the presidential residence, walked in the front door and spoke to President Michael D Higgins, who was working in his office at the time.

It is understood she confronted Mr Higgins about the housing crisis and asked him how he could live in such an opulent residence as people slept on the street.

Mr Higgins engaged her in conversation until gardaí arrived.

They spoke to her briefly before letting her drive away, after Mr Higgins said he did not want to take the matter further, according to the Irish Daily Mail.

“Although gardaí are not required to explain every decision not to seek a prosecution, the circumstances of this security breach require some public explanation as to what occurred,” Mr O’Callaghan said on Monday.

“There needs to be a thorough inquiry as to how an intruder was able to get into the Áras and confront the President. Security at the Áras will obviously need to be tightened to ensure there is no reoccurrence.”

Mr Sherlock said a person entering the Áras “with malevolent motives could have wreaked havoc. It’s an issue that requires a resolution”.

He said that “notwithstanding the apparent decency by which the person was treated, there are now questions to be asked about whether security protocols should be reviewed in the light of this incident.”

‘Serious breach’

There was clearly “a serious breach of security,” Sinn Féin justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said.

“The President, and key Governmental buildings, should be safe, secure, with robust procedures. We need to find out what happened, what went wrong and we need to get it fixed as soon as possible.”

Both the Office of the President and the Garda have refused to comment on how the incident occurred.

“An Garda Síochána does not comment on the detail of security arrangements for the President,” a Garda spokesperson said.

Two superintendent-led Garda investigations are now taking place following the incident. One will focus how the woman gained entrance while the other will review the existing security arrangements in place.

Security arrangements at Áras an Uachtaráin are usually strict, with visitors only admitted by appointment and after having signed in.

It is understood Garda management is examining if a member left their post at the front gate, allowing the woman to drive in unchallenged.

Although there are military personnel on the grounds, the Garda are primarily responsible for security. There are usually about eight armed and unarmed gardaí stationed on the grounds at any one time.