'Toxic' truck protest man drives into Leinster House gates

 

A 41-YEAR-OLD man who was arrested after driving a concrete mixer truck towards the gates of Leinster House yesterday is due to appear in court this morning charged with criminal damage.

In a statement last night, gardaí said the man would remain in custody until his appearance before the Criminal Courts of Justice, Parkgate Street at 10.30am.

Joe McNamara from Achill Island, Co Mayo, drove the vehicle on to Kildare Street early yesterday and parked it in front of the entrance to the Dáil before locking his cabin and climbing on to the roof of the truck. He then attempted to open makeshift doors on the back of the truck to reveal a protest banner but gardaí arrested him at about 7.15am.

The slogans “Toxic Bank Anglo”, “€1,000,000 on golf balls” and “€500K for golf” were displayed on the side of the truck and its registration plate showed the word “bankrupt”.

No one was injured in the incident and minor damage was caused to the paintwork of the Leinster House’s gates. The side windows in the cab of the truck were smashed as gardaí were trying to detain him.

Mr McNamara was taken to Pearse Street Garda station under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.

A Garda spokesman said the station had received numerous calls from members of the public, the “vast majority” offering support for Mr McNamara. The truck remained in situ for over two hours as gardaí and recovery crews struggled to move it. It is understood the brake lines and electric cables had been tampered with to immobilise the vehicle.

An Oireachtas spokesman said the incident did not affect proceedings as the Dáil resumed sitting after the summer recess. He said the pedestrian access at the front gates was not damaged and alternative vehicle access was provided at the rear of the building on Merrion Street.

Mr McNamara is known on his native Achill Island as a colourful individual and an active member of the local pipe band. Outside of business, he has been involved in charity work, including the Niall Mellon township building project.

Public support: people gather at garda station

MEMBERS OF the public gathered in support of truck driving protester Joseph McNamara outside Pearse Street Garda station yesterday afternoon, where the Achill Island-native was held.

A couple from Roscommon who said they were friends of Mr McNamara for 10 years arrived at the station at 8pm with a change of clothes for him. They called him “very charitable” and a “kind” man.

Also supporting Mr McNamara was James Kilbane, a school friend and a former finalist in RTÉ’s You’re a Star. He said Mr McNamara “built a business, he put people to work, he put jerseys on teams. Today he has made a statement that others hadn’t the courage to do.”

Brendan Meehan from Artane pledged to remain outside the station overnight. “I felt this is where I should be. We need a leader and the person I’d be glad to follow is in that jail. I just want that man to know I’m here to support him.”

Mr McNamara attracted support online, including social networking site Twitter on which the incident was dubbed “Cementgate”. One contributor wrote: “So you get arrested if you crash a truck into the Dáil but not if you crash the entire economy?”