Man tackled by Canadian envoy defends ‘act of civil disobedience’

Brian Murphy is a member of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association

A protester has been arrested after disrupting a military ceremony commemorating the British soldiers who died in the Easter Rising. Video: Ronan McGreevy

 

The protester who was grabbed by Canadian ambassador Kevin Vickers who assisted in his removal from a commemoration service for British soldiers, has described his own behaviour as an act of “civil disobedience”.

Brian Murphy from Rathcoole, Co Dublin said he thought he would have 10 to 15 seconds to make his protest before he was arrested and escorted away by gardaí.

He was demonstrating because “I found the event objectionable, unpalatable to be commemorating British soldiers killed in 1916. ”

He also wanted to highlight the case of the “Craigavon Two”, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, jailed in 2012 for the murder of PSNI officer Stephen Carroll who was shot dead in Craigavon, Co Armagh, in 2009.

He had applied for an invitation to the event from the Department of Foreign Affairs but rejected suggestions he claimed a connection he did not have.

“I do have a relative buried in the cemetery. He died in 1916 on April 21st, but of natural causes,” three days before the Rising.

His great grandfather Hugh Coleman was a British soldier in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who previously served for a few years in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and is buried at Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin.

“I visit this cemetery maybe once a year, and am probably one of the few people in Dublin who actually know about it.”

Asked why he would protest against British soldiers being commemorated when his great grandfather was one, he said “it was a different context”.

It was fine from the British Army to commemorate their own dead but “inappropriate” and “insensitive” to the relatives of those killed in 1916 to be commemorating them in Ireland.

The father of three questioned the commemoration of soldiers who were against Irish freedom. “Does that mean in two or three years’ time they’ll be commemorating the Black and Tans, the Auxiliaries?”

The manager of a youth and community centre in Dublin 12, he said his protest was peaceful. He said he did not use foul language and offered no resistance when he was arrested. “It was something I wanted to do myself.”

“I stood up to make my protest,” he said. He shouted a number of slogans and described the event as a “shame” and an “insult”.

“I could see him (the Canadian ambassador) standing up and heading straight for me and I put my hands up to stop him getting too close.”

He added that “the publicity it’s got is because of his action, not mine. I presumed he was some sort of security”.

The protestor, who previously demonstrated at Glasnevin cemetery when the names of everyone killed in the Rising were inscribed on a commemorative wall, said there was a very large Garda presence.

He said the ambassador was nearest but the gardaí were there very quickly “and in fairness there was no roughness”.

Mr Murphy said he is not a member of any political party but is involved with the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association, which offers support to republican prisoners in Portlaoise and Maghaberry prisons.

“I’m old enough to have been writing letters on behalf of the Birmingham Six,” he said. He has not met McConville and Wooton but claims there were serious questions about the forensics involved in the PSNI murder case and about the evidence of the main prosecution witness.

Mr Murphy said there were “mixed views” in his family about his actions.

He has been charged with a public order offence under Section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 and is due to appear before the District Court in Blanchardstown on June 21st.

The Canadian Embassy in Dublin has declined to comment and declined all requests for interview.