Thursday 23 May 2019

'Completely and utterly unacceptable' - protest outside Health Minister's family home is criticised

Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)
Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)

Kevin Doyle and Ryan Nugent

A protest outside of Health Minister Simon Harris' family home this afternoon has been deemed "completely unacceptable" and "inappropriate".

The minister, his wife and three-week-old baby were inside their home today as up to 20 people arrived outside, claiming to be "against austerity".

Gardai were called to the minister's Greystones home and have confirmed that the protest has ended.

They said: "The protesters have left the scene peacefully and enquiries will be carried out."

A spokesperson for Mr Harris added: "The incident has now concluded. The Minister would like to thank An Garda Síochána for their assistance and in ensuring his wife and daughter's safety.

"He has no further comment to make at this time."

A group of protesters put a video online claiming that Mr Harris has "neglected" his position.

"He’s not even qualified for this job we’re all aware of the smear test scandal, thousands of patients on trolleys, medical cannabis bill, the extravagant costs of the new children’s hospital and the Nurses' strike. Who we fully support.

"Simon is part of Fine Gael party, the same party who voted for the eviction bill to be signed. And are aware of the hundreds of people that are sleeping on our streets every night."

They claimed they are launching a 'Bring it to their doors' campaign and called on people to target other TDs, councillors and even judges.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin condemned the incident, as he called for people to respect public representatives' privacy.

He said in a statement this evening: "This is completely and utterly unacceptable.

"Everyone is entitled to peace and security with their family in their own home.

"Putting yourself forward for public service does not take away that right."

Culture Minister, Josepha Madigan hit out at the protest online, saying "and we wonder why people are put off being a politician? Go figure."

Her ministerial colleague, Helen McEntee described the protest as "absolutely disgraceful behaviour."

The Independent Alliance also condemned it, stating it was "utterly unacceptable", while Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne called for a ban to be imposed on protesting outside people’s homes.

Gardai said that peaceful protests are allowed, providing they are not obstructing traffic.

"What a thick thing to do. Family homes and hospitals should be protest free. When they bring in the hospital protest ban, I'd suggest a home protest ban too," Mr Byrne said.

Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghin O Caolain, who was the party's health spokesman for 14 years, deemed the protest "inappropriate."

He said: "Understanding the deep concerns that people have across the country at the state of our health service, that said, I would say that in any and all circumstances, mounting a protest at the home of a government minister or anyone in public office, the family are clearly going to be discommoded is inappropriate.

"I would not support it as a means of giving voice to very justifiable anger that is out there across all of the areas – the IMNO protest, the PNA protest – the very legitimate demands of both organisations, the concern across all of civic society in relation to the state of our health services – all of that is legitimate and should be demonstrated in the way that the huge mobilisation some 40,000 people represented yesterday on the streets of Dublin.

"That’s the way to protest not in this particular mode."

Mr Harris has been at the eye of two political storms in recent weeks.

Nurses have staged three days of strikes over pay and are planning another three this week.

And he has fighting accusations that he misled the Dáil on the cost of the National Children's Hospital.

It has emerged the hospital will cost €450m more than originally planned.

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