Varadkar calls protesters who halted Fine Gael meeting ‘anti-democratic’

Members of the Connolly Youth Movement describe Government as ‘ruthless Blueshirt regime’

Members of the Connolly Youth Movement halted a public information meeting organised by Fine Gael in Cork. Video: Jennifer Bray

 

A public information organized by Fine Gael in Cork as part of its campaign in support of directly elected mayors for Cork, Limerick and Waterford had to be adjourned for a period this evening when a small number of left-wing activists disrupted proceedings.

Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune was about to introduce Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as the guest speaker at the meeting in the Clayton Hotel in Cork when a woman stood up and called for a minute’s silence for the two homeless men who had died on Cork streets in the past week.

Ms Clune agreed to hold a minute’s silence but when she began to speak again the woman began to read from a script, condemning Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour for their policies which she said were causing huge problems for people in terms of unemployment, homelessness, poor housing and provision of health services.

The woman continued to read from the script and was followed by three other speakers. all members of the Connolly Youth Movement, who similarly attacked Fine Gael and the other mainstream parties for their support of what they described as European militarism.

“We call upon all people opposed to the ruthless Blueshirt regime to question them at every opportunity you get and never, ever permit them to walk away from disastrous, inhumane and barbaric policies that they continue to introduce against society,” a protestor said.

Ms Clune appealed to the protestors to allow the meeting to proceed but when they continued to shout out their messages, she announced that the meeting would be cancelled and reconvened on another occasion. Mr Varadkar and other senior Fine Gael politicians left the room.

Approximately 15 minutes later they returned to hold the meeting with Mr Varadkar condemning the protestors, saying that free speech was an integral part of democracy and refusing to allow people hold a public information meeting was profoundly anti-democratic.

“I think no matter what political party you come from or what your political views, we should all be committed to democracy and freedom of speech and trying to shout other people down and trying to shut down their meetings is profoundly anti-democratic,” said Mr Varadkar.

“It goes against the basic principle of free speech and is untrue to what happened in 1916 when people fought for our freedom and independence and it is untrue to all of the efforts of our founding fathers. We are a democracy and that allows people to speak freely,” he said to loud applause.

Both uniformed gardaí and plain clothes detectives were present at the meeting but reported no arrests. Earlier, a small number of protestors including Workers Party Cllr Ted Tynan had mounted a peaceful picket outside the hotel highlighting concerns about the cervical smear controversy.