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Friday 15 December 2017

Eggs hurled at Blair as book signing turns violent

TROUBLE: Protesters clash with gardai during former British prime minister Tony Blair's book signing at Eason in O'Connell Street, Dublin
TROUBLE: Protesters clash with gardai during former British prime minister Tony Blair's book signing at Eason in O'Connell Street, Dublin
TROUBLE: Protesters clash with gardai during former British prime minister Tony Blair's book signing at Eason in O'Connell Street, Dublin
Gardai stand guard at Eason's

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

There were violent scuffles between protesters and gardai in O'Connell Street, Dublin, yesterday during former British prime minister Tony Blair's controversial book signing event.

Shoes and eggs were thrown by the crowd at his car as he arrived to sign copies of his memoir, A Journey, at Eason's flagship bookstore beside the GPO.

The missiles, thrown by anti-war protesters, who numbered no more than 200, did not hit Mr Blair as he arrived at the venue shortly before 11am. The poor weather greatly reduced the risk of widespread trouble.

Four people were arrested as activists clashed with gardai during the demonstrations before midday. The four were charged with minor public order offences and later released from custody.

The groups represented included the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Coalition, the 32-County Sovereignty Movement and the Workers' Party Dublin branch.

Protesters chanted: 'Hey hey, Tony hey, how many kids have you killed today?' They also shouted 'Tony Blair war criminal' and 'Blood on your hands'.

Despite the noisy protests, more than 700 people queued to meet Mr Blair and receive a signed copy of his bestselling book.

One flashpoint occurred when gardai took a 17-year-old Leaving Cert student into custody. As he was being bundled into the garda van, several protesters sought to free him, while others sat down on the road to prevent the van from moving.

The teenager was transferred into another van, which was able to speed away to Store Street garda station.

A number of those who queued to have their books signed were ejected for confronting Mr Blair verbally as he signed their books.

One of those people, Kate O'Sullivan, 24, from Cork, said she was restrained by security and detained for 20 minutes after she tackled the former British Labour leader.

"I queued up and went in. We had to leave all our belongings behind. We were given a copy of the book and we paid for it. We went through a metal detector and were led up to the third floor.

"We were brought in four at a time and before I knew I was in front of him. I said: 'Tony Blair I am making a citizen's arrest' -- and before I had even finished I was whisked away.

"I was kept on a stairwell for about 20 minutes and they kept asking me which group do I belong to. I don't, I'm an independent. Then after a while they kicked me out."

About 60 people who were in the queue were told they would not make it inside.

Shortly before 1pm, by deploying a decoy vehicle which was parked outside the Abbey Street entrance, Mr Blair was able to leave the premises without delay. His convoy immediately sped away under garda escort towards Dublin Airport.

O'Connell Street was closed off for most of the morning with Luas lines shut down and dozens of gardai stationed at the bookstore.

There has been much criticism of the overly restrictive manner in which the book signing was conducted.

There was also much condemnation of the event from local businesses, who were forced to close for the duration of the signing on the busiest trading day of the week.

Sunday Independent

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