| 15.2°C Dublin

Kenny's wave like a red rag to a bull as protesters in no mood for greetings

Close

Enda Kenny makes his exit from the Mansion House. Photo: El Keegan.

Enda Kenny makes his exit from the Mansion House. Photo: El Keegan.

Protesters are confronted by gardai outside the Mansion House in Dublin yesterday. Photo: El Keegan

Protesters are confronted by gardai outside the Mansion House in Dublin yesterday. Photo: El Keegan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's car attempting to leave the Mansion House yesterday. Photo: El Keegan.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's car attempting to leave the Mansion House yesterday. Photo: El Keegan.

/

Enda Kenny makes his exit from the Mansion House. Photo: El Keegan.

IT WAS probably the reflex action of a 'lifer' politician but even as Enda Kenny flapped a jaunty and casual wave at water charge protesters, he surely must have realised that it was ill-advised and exceptionally badly timed.

A red rag to a bull, the decibel level instantly rose from the crowd of around 80 protesters who had gathered outside the Mansion House in Dublin, where the Taoiseach, along with Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, launched the Royal Irish Academy's Art and Architecture of Ireland - a five-volume study of Ireland's visual heritage.

Inside, all was serene civilisation as RIA members and their guests enjoyed a glass of white wine to accompany the speeches.

And yet, there was an uneasy awareness of the trouble brewing outside.

"The peasants are revolting," whispered an elderly woman in furs. It was quite difficult to tell whether or not she was merely speaking in jest.

The Taoiseach had arrived some time ahead of the 12.30 launch - though not as early as the protesters. And the iron gates of the Mansion House were strictly monitored, with only those with invitations permitted within and steel barriers erected as a double layer of security in front of the iron railings.

Mr Kenny would give no comment to press at the event. "Not today," said a spokesman tersely.

All bets were off, given the treatment of the Tanaiste Joan Burton at Jobstown on Saturday - surrounded and trapped by angry demonstrators for over two hours after she had arrived as guest of honour for the graduation ceremony of 60 students from An Cosan/IT Carlow only to be hit in the face by a water balloon.

Some amongst the crowd yesterday carried anti-water-charges banners, republican flags and one Dublin flag reading: "Dublin says no to emigration". The mood was cheerful as they struck up with a verse of 'We're on the One Road' to the beat of a drum improvised from a plastic barrel. One protester wore a mask.

There was a strong garda presence - which grew even greater just ahead of the Taoiseach's departure, en route to a funeral in Mayo - and a group of around 20 gardai came down Dawson Street to stand outside the fence.

Their arrival sparked some minor scuffles. One woman who had wrapped her arms around the barriers was prised off by three gardai and she moved off, examining her hands.

At least three other men were physically held back by gardai. There were plenty of verbal clashes but no signs of real violence and many campaigners shouted warnings of "peaceful protest".

With the mood now a little uglier outside, guests attempting to leave the Mansion House after the launch were warned that they should remain inside the gates until the departure of the Taoiseach.

At 1.45pm, Mr Kenny stepped out and gave a small smile and a little wave directed towards the protesters. The crowd jeered and heckled: "Kenny, Kenny, Kenny, out, out, out." And "Shame on you, shame on you."

He stepped nimbly into his car but as it was driving off, a female protester made an attempt to fling herself in its path but was thrown back by a garda. She fell in the road and was subsequently nursing her hip bone.

She smiled and nodded as those amongst the crowd asked if she was all right.

The Taoiseach gone, the crowd began to disperse, though some individuals continued to direct their ire at the gardai, with one man saying: "I'm paying my taxes to keep you in a job."

Though markedly subdued in comparison with what had happened at Jobstown, the water charges debacle is merely escalating.

Irish Independent