Protestors disrupt Labour conference


There were rowdy scenes outside the Labour Party conference this afternoon as protesters broke through a Garda barrier to register their opposition to the household charge and austerity measures.

An estimated 1,000 opponents of the home tax from all over the State assembled in the centre of Galway at about 2pm to march to NUI Galway where the conference is taking place.

Left-wing TDs Richard Boyd Barrett and Joan Collins were among the crowd that marched through the city chanting slogans such as: “No way; we won’t pay” and carrying banners urging members of the public: “Don’t register, don’t pay.”

Placards were carried with pictures of Labour Party founder and 1916 martyr James Connolly and the message, “Shame on you, Labour working-class traitors”.

Participants came from as far afield as Crumlin, Kimmage, Walkinstown and Dun Laoghaire in Co Dublin; Falcarragh and Gortahork in Donegal; Wexford; North Leitrim and West Limerick.

A coffin draped with the Tricolour was carried by a group protesting that “Neutrality is dead”. Others were objecting to septic tank and water charges as well as education cuts and the EU fiscal treaty.

When the protesters arrived at the conference centre shortly after 3pm, the doors were immediately closed and only members of the news media were allowed out, with a Labour official stressing that this was at their own risk. Some of the afternoon sessions were postponed.

At 3.20pm a group of about 100 protesters broke through a barrier of gardaí and security personnel to enter the courtyard in front of the Bailey Allen Hall.

A sitdown was staged about ten metres from the front door. The tricolour-draped coffin seen at an earlier stage of the protest was now brought to the main entrance with a red Labour rose placed on top of it.

Slogans such as “Labour Party, we know you; You’re a f---ing Blueshirt too” and “The people united will never be defeated” were chanted by the protesters.

A copy of the conference agenda was burned amid chants of “Revolution, revolution.”

A second group of protesters, now numbering several hundred, broke through the police barrier at 3.32 pm. The force of 24 uniformed gardaí regrouped at the main entrance to the hall.

A teacher who was observing the protest remarked that it was about more than the household charge: “It’s the precarious existence of the youth of this country that has them angry.”

At 4pm, Garda reinforcements arrived in a van, to mock applause from the crowd. A placard proclaimed, “F--- the police” and another said: “Kenny and Gilmore are Angela’s asses [sic].”

Independent TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, who was observing the clashes said: “The Labour Party are paying the price for the lies they told people at the general election.”

Commenting on the clashes between protesters and gardaí, he said: “It would be preferable if that didn’t happen: it wasn’t ideal, but people are annoyed.”

He added that Labour ministers Eamon Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte were “quite good” at protesting in their day.

There was some hostility towards the news media among protesters with reporters being challenged to show their credentials to prove that they were not members of the Garda Special Branch.

A camera operator from RTÉ Nuacht was injured in the melee and was taken to hospital as a precaution. The doors of the conference hall were re-opened and the protesters had left the immediate vicinity by 6pm.