‘Disco outside the Dáil’ protest against Pence visit

Amnesty-led demonstration puts best foot forward – inspired by US LGBT activists

 

A “Disco outside the Dáil” organised in protest against the visit of US vice-president Mike Pence drew a crowd to Kildare Street this afternoon.

Protesters led by Amnesty International waved rainbow flags, wore Mike Pence masks and danced to music by YMCA and RuPaul, in a demonstration inspired by US LGBT activists.

Representatives from Amnesty, Extinction Rebellion, the Union of Students of Ireland, Dublin LGBTQ Pride, the Irish Refugee Council and other activist groups, were among the crowds protesting against the Trump administration’s approach to human rights.

Executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland Colm O Gorman told crowds that LGBT activists in Washington had used a similar form of protest when US president Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

Mr O Gorman told the jubilant crowds that “the best way for us to defeat hate is to be who we are, to be courageous and bold”.

During his visit, Mr Pence has spoken repeatedly of his Sligo-born grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, and has previously said that he was inspired by the former soldier, who served with the Irish Defence Forces in the Civil War.

However, Mr O Gorman called out Mr Pence’s claims to Irish values, saying “he doesn’t get to accept Irish values if he’s not prepared to listen to what Ireland has to say to him right now”.

Pippa Woolnough, from the Immigrant Council of Ireland, joined the protest against over the Trump administration’s treatment of refugees on the US-Mexico border.

“We’re very clear: everyone has the right to apply for international protection. That’s being ignored and flouted. No child should ever be detained, that’s being flouted.”

Cara Clinch attended the rally with her two young children and said she was horrified by the treatment of children at the border.

School students Paul Keenan and Kate Brady had travelled from Sligo to take part in the protest and bore a homemade poster reading, “Culchies hate Pence too.”

They said that referendums had not shifted conservative values in rural Ireland and called for similar protests outside of Dublin to change attitudes.

Ms Brady said “It’s become more polarised. We come from a conservative school where there’s a lot of racism and homophobia. Sligo needs more of this.”

The event was awash with rainbow flags supplied by Gay Pride Dublin. Although other political movements attended, some were disappointed that one issue appeared to be taking precedence over others.

Tara Gilsenan, from the Young Greens, said “It’s kind of worrying that people aren’t focusing on the climate emergency but, that said, the effect he’s having on LGBT people and women in the States is really worrying too.”

Raising concerns

Although most protesters were confident that the Taoiseach would raise their human rights concerns with Mr Pence in a “muted, international diplomatic way”, Ms Gilsenan believed nothing would be said of environmental concerns.

“It’s very scary that our politicians are doing nothing while extinction stares them in the face.”

On the second day of his visit to Ireland, Mr Pence met with President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin, where they are reported to have discussed topics such as human rights, equality, climate action and migration.

The vice-president and his wife also had lunch with the the Taoiseach and his partner Matthew Barrett.

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere was mocked on Twitter for suggesting that the engagement proved that Mr Pence was not “anti-gay”.

Representatives from the Irish Freedom Party, which supports an Irish exit from the European Union, arranged an alternative welcome party for Pence at Phoenix Park, near Áras an Uachtarian and the US Ambassador’s residence.

However, the 15 IFP representatives were refused entry to the park at Parkgate Street by gardaí under the Public Order Act, according to audio recordings shared with The Irish Times.

Hermann Kelly, the President of the IFP, described the decision as “political policing designed to suppress the voice of a growing political party”.