Rabbitte shrugs off pub confrontation - says protesters missed opportunity

Group surround Rabbitte after holding protest outside Leinster House


Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has shrugged off an incident in which he was confronted by a group of more than 40 splinter republican and left-wing supporters as he tried to enjoy a pint in Doheny and Nesbitt’s pub in Merrion Row, not far from the Dáil.

Mr Rabbitte is a regular customer of the bar which is synonymous with politicians and economists. He went there last night after work with his special adviser Simon Nugent and two colleagues from the Labour Party.

The Minister brushed off the protest by “an uninvited greeting party”, noting it was the “wrong place, wrong time”.

“It’s not the kind of accompaniment you’d search out. These guys are pretty professional at what they do - not much I could do about it,” he told RTE Radio.

Mr Rabbitte also noted that the protesters had missed an opportunity while confronting him.

He told RTE’s Pat Kenny programme that “the funny thing was that he missed the real focus of his protest - the troika were upstairs,” he said. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin was also in the pub at a function for officials from the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund when the incident occurred. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan joined the event later.

A senior Labour staff member who witnessed the incident last night described it as “outrageous” and “disgraceful” saying it was “co-ordinated intimidation of a public figure quietly enjoying a drink on a summer’s evening with his colleagues”.

A video has been posted on Youtube of the incident in which an estimated 40 protesters from left-wing and republican splinter groups surround and shout at the Minister.

The video was uploaded onto the site by an anonymous poster called ‘slanabhaileeachtrann’ and is approximately five minutes long.

Video of Rabbitte being confronted by protesters

Mr Rabbitte, with a pint of Guinness beside him on the counter, sits passively throughout and does not respond as the protesters chant and shout at him.

For part of the video he studies his phone. Mr Nugent and a Labour colleague are seen trying to stand between the protesters and the Minister.

The video does not show any physical contact and there is no evidence that any of the protesters went within a metre of him.

At the start the protesters shouted “Run Rabbitte Run” while two of them can be heard to shout “scumbag”. The chant then changes to “traitor”.

A voice is then heard saying “You cannot do that here. This is private property.”

Later the protesters chant “shame on you”. The voice of a woman is heard shouting: “We are paying your f***ing wages, scumbag”.

A female voice is also heard shouting at him, challenging him to address her: “Look at your people, look at my face, you are destroying our lives.”

A yellow flag is seen fluttering in shot and tricolours can also be seen in the mirror behind Mr Rabbitte. It is thought that the majority of the protesters were from Eirigi, the splinter republican group, who prominently displayed tricolours.

The translation of the username used by the poster is “Good bye and go home foreign” - the ‘eachtrann’ part is possibly short for ‘eachtrannaigh’ (foreigners).

The incident started when Mr Rabbitte and his colleagues were sitting outside Doheny and Nesbitt’s at about 7pm. A small group of people who had been part of a protest against banks and austerity measures organised by Dublin Says No passed by.

Recognising the Labour Party Minister, they doubled back and started chanting at him. The incident lasted a few minutes and the small group left.

However, within half an hour a group of about 40 marched up Merrion Row and converged outside the pub. Mr Rabbitte went inside ahead of the group who chanted outside for a few minutes before all piling inside.

The group then surrounded the Minister who was sitting on a stool and began shouting abuse and slogans at him, berating him for his role in Government and chanting ‘Run Rabbitte Run’.

The incident lasted for between five and ten minutes. A number of off-duty gardaí who happened to be in the bar heard the commotion and tried to break up the protest. Several minutes later uniformed gardaí arrived and dispersed the protesters

It is not the first time this month there has been a run-in between a Labour Minister and members of Dublin Says No. Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin was also subjected to a protest, which the group posted on YouTube.

In 2012 a group of protesters surrounded Mr Rabbitte’s table while he was eating lunch in Buswell’s Hotel in 2012. One of the protesters accused him of selling-off the country’s resources, claiming there were four suicides a day [because of the Coalition]’.

The protesters in 2012 also shouted that Mr Rabbitte should bring in the Union Jack and that Ireland was not a free country.

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