Politicians must be able to do jobs 'without fear' - Coveney

Simon Coveney

Graham Clifford

POLITICIANS must be able to do their jobs "without fear of intimidation," according to Defence Minister Simon Coveney.

He was speaking following recent demonstrations targeting members of the Oireachtas, as well as President Michael D Higgins, and an attack on a TD's office.

A decision to provide "protection detail" for certain politicians was taken at a meeting of the Crime and Security Division at Garda Headquarters last week in light of the firebombing of the constituency office of Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin and after verbal abuse of President Higgins by anti-water demonstrators in Finglas.

Mr Coveney said: "It has not been confirmed to me (that protection levels are to increased).

"However, I'm glad to see that some journalists are writing about the need for democratically elected people to be able to do their jobs without fear of intimidation."

And he said that if the Government felt that public representatives needed additional protection, it would be provided.

He said: "It is important that democratically elected people can move around freely - obviously, the Government will have to do whatever needs to be done to make sure that can happen and I think people would expect that."

Mr Coveney was speaking in Cobh at the beginning of commemorations to mark the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania off the Cork coast in 1915. On the promenade in Cobh, school children read out the names of victims of the Lusitania disaster. Of the 150 buried in a nearby cemetery, the identities of 26 women and 15 men are still unknown.

Over the next four months across Cork harbour, events have been organised to remember the disaster and the role local people played in rescuing some of the victims and burying others.

Flares were set off on-shore and on Spike Island as a crowd of 200 gathered to mark the 100-year anniversary of the tragedy.

"In many ways, the sinking of the RMS Lusitania was more significant than what happened to the Titanic," said Mr Coveney.

"The story of the tragedy, the response, the drama and the sadness needs to be remembered as well as the role of the local people who rescued so many."