Taoiseach heckled by anti-water charge protesters in Sligo
About 100 people turn backs on Enda Kenny and US ambassador at Civil War event
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was heckled by anti-water charges protesters in Sligo on Saturday. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and US ambassador Kevin O’Malley were heckled and jeered by protesters at a ceremony in Co Sligo on Saturday to honour the Irish who fought in the American Civil War.
About 100 anti-water charges and anti-war protesters turned their backs on speakers including Mr Kenny and the ambassador as a monument was unveiled in Ballymote marking the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.
Throughout the ceremony the protesters practically drowned out the speakers - who also included local Fine Gael TD John Perry - calling them “traitors”.
They repeatedly shouted “war mongers” and “American troops out of Shannon” throughout the Ambassador’s speech.
Before the ceremony began, those taking part in the rally were urged to turn their backs in silence by one participant who said that otherwise they would be demonised by the media.
Afterwards Mr Kenny said he was well used to peaceful protests which were part of our democracy but “but you would expect in a place like this that respect would be shown for the national anthems and for visitors from the US especially for the ambassador, himself the son of Irish emigrants”. He noted that the protesters did “respectfully” observe a minute’s silence for those who died in the war.
The Taoiseach was in Ballymote for the unveiling of a monument , a sculpture in bronze, of a solider on horseback, dedicated to the memory of the Irish who served and died during the American Civil War.
The ceremony was attended by a few hundred people including locals who shook hands with Mr Kenny on his arrival, and some of whom expressed disapproval at the nature of the noisy protest.
There were angry scenes when the ceremony ended as gardaí erected a barrier and refused to allow some of those who had been involved in the demonstration to exit the area until the Taoiseach’s entourage left. Some of the protesters sat on the road in protest as Sligo county councillor Seamus O’Boyle (People Before Profit) pleaded with gardaí to let them through.
On arrival Mr Kenny was greeted with placards saying ‘No attachment orders for the bankers’ , ‘US war machine out of Shannon’ and ‘Where’s the monument for one million dead Iraqis’.
Throughout the speeches about a dozen uniformed gardaí and members of the Garda public order unit separated the demonstrators from the podium where singer Eunjoo Goh performed both the Irish and US national anthems.
Members of the Irish UN Veterans association also attended including 72-year-old James Taheny from Riverston Co Sligo who fought at the siege of Jadotville in The Congo in 1961. “Today is very important to me”, he said.