CCTV bid to catch man who spat at MEP Phil Prendergast
GARDAI hope private CCTV security cameras will help identify the man who verbally abused Ireland South MEP Phil Prendergast (Lab) before spitting in her face.
The incident was not caught on garda CCTV cameras but detectives believe the movements of the man involved may have been captured by security cameras fitted to shops and pubs in Cork's Togher/Ballyphehane area.
Ms Prendergast (54), who lives in Tipperary and is a trained midwife, made a formal complaint about the incident – and has been attending a doctor amid fears she may have been infected by the saliva, which landed directly in her eye.
The incident occurred on Cork's Tramore Road last Wednesday, as the Tipperary MEP attended the funeral of the father of Cork TD, Ciaran Lynch (Lab).
She had parked her car some distance away for privacy reasons and was walking to the funeral when a man in his late 30s or early 40s confronted her.
"He looked at me and called me 'Labour scum'. And then he spat directly in my face."
"I couldn't believe it – I was in total shock," she said.
The man walked on and Ms Prendergast used a tissue to clean her face before going on to attend the funeral.
Ms Prendergast said she was most concerned about getting an infection – and used her medical training to clear the spittle from her eye as best she could.
But she wasn't able to properly wash out her eye until several hours later.
She attended a doctor and has another appointment for further tests.
"I've been in politics for a while, so I'm tough enough. But I couldn't believe this. . . I was shocked at first, but then I got mad because no one should be treated like this.
"I was so upset that for a time, I thought about quitting politics altogether. But this kind of thing just shouldn't be tolerated."
She said gardai had been exceptionally kind to her and she stressed that she had been treated extremely well by the public on all previous visits to Cork.
Ms Prendergast canvassed Cork city centre and the 18th Century English Market yesterday, with dozens of people insisting on shaking her hand and sympathising over the appalling incident
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton described the abuse as "nasty and mean".
"I suspect it was a random act, and that that person might well have behaved like that towards someone else," she said.
Ms Burton paid tribute to how the MEP had responded to the abuse.
"Phil is an experienced midwife who has delivered tens of thousands of babies before her career in politics. So she, more than most of us, is used to handling situations that are full of stress," she said.