Hotel is giving in to 'mob rule' by cancelling FG meeting - MEP

Deirdre Clune

Ralph Riegel

A PRIVATE meeting between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Cork-based Fine Gael TDs had to be cancelled and moved to a new venue amid security fears.

The meeting, planned for the Rochestown Park Hotel tomorrow night, was in advance of a high-profile visit by Mr Kenny to Cork on Friday where he will attend multiple functions in the city centre, Blackpool and Douglas.

The anti-water charge protest group, We Won't Pay, has already vowed to mount major demonstrations at key events to be attended by Mr Kenny.

Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune has described the decision of the Rochestown park Hotel to cancel the meeting as disgraceful.

"The Rochestown Park Hotel is giving into mob rule. I am outraged at this decision which flies in the face of democracy," she said.

"I support people's right to protest and make their opinions heard but am appalled that the hotel has bowed to the threats of a small number of people intent on thwarting the democratic process. When you allow mobs to dictate whether a democratically elected party can meet to debate the issues of the day, then it is a sad day for our country.

"I have full confidence in the Gardai to protect staff and customers of the Hotel in the event of any aggression. All attempts to destroy our democracy with intimidation and threats of violence must be defeated."

Protester John O'Donovan said it was vital politicians including Mr Kenny listen to the legitimate voice of the people.

A major protest is planned for Blackpool where the Taoiseach will attend a significant jobs announcement.

Gardai have significantly tightened security around all Cabinet members following controversial demonstrations at events attended by Mr Kenny in Sligo and by Tanaiste Joan Burton in Jobstown in Dublin.

This has included armed officers being included in security details for specific high-risk functions.

A woman had to be treated by paramedics after fainting in a jostling crowd near the Taoiseach's State car in Sligo while Ms Burton was struck on the back of the head by a water balloon in Jobstown.

Photographs also showed a young man throwing a brick at Gardai during the Dublin confrontation.

Extra gardai are now being deployed in Cork for Mr Kenny's visit though the Rochestown Park meeting was cancelled amid security concerns at the venue.

The meeting will now go ahead at a new location in Ballincollig tonight.

Amid tightened security, FG members intending to attend the event have been warned to bring identity documents.

Mr Kenny will meet with all Cork-based FG TDs including Defence Minister Simon Coveney and European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy.

FG TDs expressed concern over the meeting having to be re-arranged and the impact demonstrations were having on routine Government business.

Mr Coveney said he believed Cork people only wanted to see peaceful, democratic protests.

"I believe the overwhelming majority of people do not want to witness these (other) kind of scenes on our streets," he said.

Mr Coveney said it was important for people to realise the economy was recovering, job creation was accelerating and overseas investment in Ireland continued at a very strong level.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly, whose Tipperary offices were the focus of a bomb threat, said he believed the revised water charge structure would be acceptable to the majority of Irish people.

However, Mr Kenny is still expected to be greeted by large protests given that Cork has been one of the centres of anti-water charge demonstrations over the past year.

Anti-water charge incidents have occurred over recent weeks in Togher, Tivoli, Cobh and Rushbrooke.

Two weeks ago an Irish Water briefing with Cork, Kerry and Clare councillors had to be abandoned after protestors forced their way into the Cork meeting.

Last Sunday, two Cork Co Council vans which were mistaken for Irish Water meter installation vehicles were destroyed in an arson attack in Bantry.