Wednesday 18 October 2017

Attack on democracy: Cabinet's security reviewed

Threat to security of Kenny, Cabinet; Racist abuse to firebomb victim TD

Michael D Higgins
Michael D Higgins

Daniel McConnell, Jim Cusack and Ronald Quinlan

Security for the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Cabinet ministers has been increased following threats against them by rogue protestors.

President Michael D Higgins's security is also under review after an incident during which a protestor was heard to say: "Take the f***er out."

The Sunday Independent has learned that further directions are to be issued this week to review and, where necessary, increase "protection detail" for all TDs and other State figures.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Crime and Security Division at Garda Headquarters last week in light of the firebombing of the constituency office of Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin.

Ms Mulherin has since been subjected to a torrent of "vile abuse" in letters loaded with sexually-explicit racist taunts and threats of violence.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been advised to vary his route to and from Government Buildings as part of the ramped-up security measures.

It has also emerged that Cabinet ministers must now provide gardai with their diaries for the week so that security risks can be assessed.

A further instruction has been issued to rotate gardai assigned to attend certain protests with a risk of public order disturbances after a female Garda was last week followed to her home in north county Dublin. Consideration is also to be given to extending security to the homes of gardai who have been identified by hard-line protestors.

There is concern at Government level that the cost of these additional security measures will impact on routine policing around the country. Yesterday, Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes likened some of the recent protests to fascism, which he said had been carried out by a very small number of people.

"A tiny group of people are intimidating people using bully-boy tactics and the public don't like it - a tiny group of people using near fascist tactics," he said on RTE radio.

Last week, online footage showed the President subjected to abuse as he left Colaiste Eoin in Finglas. He was also called a "midget parasite", a "sell-out" and a "traitor".

Also last week, Ms Mulherin's constituency office was firebombed, causing an estimated €20,000 in damage; Tanaiste Joan Burton was forced to leave another school by the back door last week because of an angry protest at the front gate; and a protest picket was staged at the home of Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe for the second time in eight weeks.

Yesterday, Fine Gael TD, Regina Doherty told of a threat to burn down her house and said recent incidents were an attack on democracy. While some of these events have been linked to the water charges protest, the vast majority of water protesters are peaceful and law-abiding.

An estimated 15,000 protestors turned out in Dublin yesterday. One of the marchers, Michael Maher from the "Beaumont Dublin 9 Says No" group, said personalised protests against the President were not representative of a large majority against water charges. "You will always have a minority, even in sport, who lose their heads. You saw the protest here today, good humoured and without menace. There are groups from Cavan, Tipperary, all over the country and 99.9pc would be entirely peaceful and would not agree with the actions of the minority," he said.

Last night, senior security sources said the Garda Special Detective Unit was monitoring several 'dissident' republican figures who are alleged to have "planted themselves" at the centre of the water charges protest. Sources said, these figures have split into a variety of 'micro' factions, but they are drawn together by what they see as an opportunity to attack government on both sides of the Border.

Ms Mulherin has been subjected to a torrent of "vile abuse" in letters loaded with sexually-explicit and racist taunts and threats of violence in the wake of revelations she used a taxpayer-funded telephone to make calls to a friend in Kenya.

While initial reports suggested damage to the Ballina premises had been minimal, the Sunday Independent has learned the bill for remedial works will be at least €20,000.

The figure does not include the cost of replacing computers and other office equipment which had been supplied by the Oireachtas.

Last Tuesday's attack on Ms Mulherin's office was carried out just hours after she had repaid the Houses of the Oireachtas €2,000 for phone calls she had made to her friend, Danson Kole.

Notwithstanding her decision to repay, the TD insisted she had done nothing wrong and maintained the calls had been related to her work.

While Ms Mulherin expressed relief in the immediate aftermath of the incident that none of her staff or constituents had been in the office at the time, she admitted to being "devastated and shocked" by what had taken place.

Since returning to her constituency base on Thursday, it is understood she has been further shocked by the contents of a number of anonymous letters.

The Sunday Independent has learned the letters contain a range of highly-abusive comments directed towards Ms Mulherin and Mr Kole.

"It's vile abuse. There are sexually-explicit remarks and other remarks that you could only describe as racist. One letter contains the word 'boom', which when you consider the attack on Michelle's office is sinister to say the least," a source familiar with the content said.

Responding to Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes on RTE yesterday, anti-water-charges protestor Derek Byrne said he wanted nothing to do with the politics.

Sunday Independent

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