Dail protest: Politician who organised protest condemns 'throwing of objects and conduct in that fashion'
Published 02/07/2015 | 11:41
One of the organisers behind last night's anti-water charges protest outside the Dail has condemned the "throwing of objects and conduct in that fashion".
Cllr Michael O'Brien, a member of the Anti-Austerity Alliance and elected representative for the Beaumont/Donaghmede ward of Dublin City Council, made his comments during a debate with Senator Mary Moran on the 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' programme on RTE Radio One.
He was also highly critical of gardai, saying they were being provocative towards protesters and had their batons were drawn.
Last night, a combined demonstration against water charges and the situation in Greece descended into chaos after Oireachtas members were abused and threatened as they tried to exit Leinster House.
Labour Party Senator Mary Moran was unable to leave Leinster House and claimed she was subjected to verbal abuse by protesters.
Read more here: Garda chief summoned as protest descends into chaos
One garda was treated for injuries after she was struck by a traffic cone which was thrown at gardai.
"She dropped like a tonne of bricks onto the ground. Now that was absolutely horrific. She was knocked unconscious. To me, what was worse after that was that some people seemed to think that was funny and came up and started videoing it," Sen Moran told broadcaster Sean O'Rourke.
"To see somebody crumble, standing one minute and lying unconscious the next minute, was absolutely unacceptable.
"The animosity that was shown to the gardai last night was absolutely horrific," she added, before praising gardai.
Sen Moran claimed she had to leave Leinster House and go elsewhere.
"I had to get out of Leinster House last and night and contrary to reports... protester groups are saying we ignored the advice of gardai and I reiterate that very strongly that that was not the case.
"Gardai actually encouraged [me] when I explained where I had to go and why I had to leave, and the gardai said 'every member of the Oireachtas should be entitled to go in and go out your place of business', everybody in the country should be allowed to go in and go out (from your place of business) without being obstructed.
"So they said, look there's no problem we'll get you out and I said I'll wait until somebody else is going out as well so the two of us will be going through.
"I mean people don't know me, they don't know the first thing about me so to be subjected to hammering on the window of a car, spitting, shouting absolutely abuse.
"I've absolutely no problem withe peaceful protests, with people making their protests. I regularly go out of Leinster House to offer support to people who are coming in on particular issues in areas such as disability," she said.
Sen Moran said she witnessed to "elements of thuggery" and claimed there were children present. "That was no place for children last night or innocent people," she added.
"We're trying to encourage tourism, trying to encourage people in to our country, not to get caught up in that last night.
Cllr Michael O'Brien said they organised a protest at "quite short notice" in response to legislation that was being "rammed" through the Dail.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly introduced a number of amendments to the Environment Miscellaneous Provisions Bill. These include setting up a database for the water conservation grant and blocking a house sale until water charges are paid.
The law, which is now being finalised, will also oblige local authority tenants to pay their water charges.
"We started at six o'clock and we had speeches on a platform outside Buswells, a bit away from the Dail gates that continued up until eight o'clock," Cllr O'Brien said.
"And then proceedings were interrupted when the guards, in a very forceful manner, and some 50 guards, tried to drive a path through a crowd that was just assembled outside the gates of the Dail. It was a very provocative action.
"I could see it was a forceful push," he added.
Sean O'Rourke then asked Cllr O'Brien why the protesters weren't on Molesworth Street, explaining to the politician that gardai normally facilitate such protests on Molesworth Street and not Kildare Street so as not to disrupt traffic. He asked Cllr O'Brien why they didn't hold their protest on Molesworth STreet.
Cllr O'Brien replied there was already another presence on Molesworth Street from 4 o'clock. The Dublin councillor said Molesworth Street was closed off well in advance of their protest time at 6pm and by the time they arrived, there was a considerable presence already there
"Are you saying the whole of Molesworth Street wasn't sufficiently big enough for you?" O'Rourke asked.
"I think a protest of that type was warranted yesterday because of what was happening in the Dail," Cllr O'Brien replied.
Cllr O'Brien said he didn't see the garda collapsing to the ground, but did see a "cone travel over the garda lines and land on the garda car".
"That much I did see and I did see the garda in question being led to an ambulance," he added, stating this occurred half an hour after the incident.
"I don't stand over the throwing of objects whatsoever but the there is another side to it.
The Dublin politician claimed gardai drew batons and kept the batons "in hand" until the sit down protest during which a degree of calm was restored. Cllr O'Brien claimed a "negotiated end" to the protest came about.
Sen Moran claimed the protest started earlier at 3pm even though it was organised at 6pm and said gardai showed "remarkable restraint".
She claimed protesters spat at gardai, and were throwing objects at them.
Cllr O'Brien said some of Sen Moran's claims during the interview were "complete falsehoods".
He told listeners there was a massive volume of video coverage on social media, uploaded by protesters, which shows gardai with batons drawn.
Sen Moran claimed she saw no batons.
When pressed by O'Rourke, Cllr O'Brien said he was "opposed to the throwing of objects, spitting.... those methods of struggle".
"I do condemn the throwing of objects and conduct in that fashion," he added.
However, he reiterated his claim gardai were provoking the crowd, and they had urged the crowd to be "mindful" of such provocation as this was "going to be used by the media as a propaganda weapon to try and bring discredit on the anti-water charges movement".