Friday 23 March 2018

Garda chief summoned as protest descends into chaos

Protesters try to block the car carrying former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter into Leinster House. Photo: Sam Boal
Protesters try to block the car carrying former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter into Leinster House. Photo: Sam Boal
An anti-austerity protest outside the Oireachtas descended into chaos yesterday evening. The sit-down protest on Kildare Street caused rush-hour traffic delays. Photo: Arthur Carron
A tweet posted by Alan Shatter last night

Niall O'Connor and John Downing

The Garda Commissioner has been called before an Oireachtas committee to discuss the dramatic scenes outside the Dáil which forced two Government senators to abandon their vehicles.

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.

Former justice minister Alan Shatter criticised the policing of the protest after he was blocked for several minutes as he attempted to enter the Leinster House carpark yesterday evening.

"I had abuse and insults hurled at me. My car was thumped and kicked by some protesters. It was a clear example of thuggery," the Fine Gael TD told the Irish Independent.

But as the evening drew on, a large section of the protesters staged a sit-in protest which caused traffic chaos on the busy city street. This video, posted on the Dublin Says No Facebook page, shows the chaotic scenes outside Leinster House.



There were dramatic scenes after two Labour senators - Mary Moran and Denis Landy - were forced to abandon their vehicles on Kildare Street.

Ms Moran, who is a Louth-based senator, said the experience was extremely distressing for her and her parliamentary assistant who was also in the vehicle at the time. The assistant was visibly upset afterwards.

"I have never experienced anything like this. It was totally disgraceful to see the guards attacked in that manner," Ms Moran told the Irish Independent.

At least one garda officer was injured and received medical treatment after she was hit by a traffic cone. One man was arrested and later charged with public order offences. He is due to appear before Dublin District Court later this month.

Meanwhile, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has been asked to appear in Leinster House to explain the garda operation that was put in place yesterday.

TDs have been critical of the decision not to place railings around the entrance to Leinster House, as is the norm during large protests.

Mr Shatter was blocked in his car for up to 15 minutes as he tried to get into the Dáil.

There was a standoff between some of the demonstrators and gardaí who had called for reinforcements. Some 40 officers were on duty.

Mr Shatter claimed that TDs and senators were precluded from entering and leaving Leinster House in their vehicles as is their constitutional right to do so.

"To allow this sort of conduct and to regard it as acceptable is a step on the road to fascism," he added.

It has emerged that the Committee for Procedures and Privileges (CPP) discussed the garda operation at a meeting yesterday evening and "formally requested that Garda Commissioner attends Leinster House".

A spokesman for the Commissioner said he would not comment on operational matters. Mr Shatter also asked the Ceann Comhairle to bring the issue to the Commissioner's attention.

Sources say senior gardaí previously attended a CPP meeting and assured members that there would be no situation whereby TDs and senators were prevented from leaving or entering Leinster House.

Organisers said the protest was a response to the Government rushing further water charges legislation through the Dáil this week. 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.

Some 70pc of householders had registered with Irish Water by this week's deadline which allows them claim a €100 water conservation grant from the Social Protection Department. It is not known how many people have paid their first water bills.

Irish Independent

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