Thursday 14 December 2017

Ruth Coppinger accused of describing gardai in Jobstown arrests as 'dogs'

Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

THERE were furious scenes in the Dail today after Socialist TD Ruth Coppinger was accused of describing members of An Garda Siochana involved in the Jobstown arrests as "dogs".

A major row erupted after Ms Coppinger claimed the government "called out the dogs" in relation to the arrests of several anti-water protestors this week, including her party colleague Paul Murphy.

The reference to 'dogs' sparked furious accusations from government TDs was showing complete disrespect to members of the force.

Chief Whip Paul Kehoe demanded that Ms Coppinger withdraw the "scurrilous remark" which he said was deeply offensive to members of the force, including his own family.

But Ms Coppinger claimed that she was merely using a figure of speech and that she was not trying to tarnish members of the force.

The extraordinary row erupted after Tanaiste Joan Burton was challenged over the series of arrests this week of individuals involved in the Jobstown protest last November.

Both Ms Coppinger and Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald questioned whether the arrests were politically motivated.

But the Dail descended into chaos when Ms Coppinger claimed that the government had "called out the dogs" in relation to the arrests.

She further claimed that Paul Murphy, who was arrested on Monday over his role in the protest, had been "manhandled" by gardai.

However, Ms Burton and other government members strongly objected to Ms Coppinger's contribution, made during 'Leaders' Questions'.

"Guards do not deserve to be spoken out in those terms," Ms Burton said.

After the exchanges, there was confusion as to whether Ms Coppinger had withdrawn her remarks.

Chief Whip Paul Kehoe said he took personal offence because some of his family members are gardai.

Ms Coppinger claimed her reference to 'dogs' was a figure of speech.

Earlier, Ms Burton strongly criticised the actions of protestors outside Fingal County Council this week who inhibited the Fianna Fáil mayor Mags Murray of leaving a meeting.

According to Ms Burton, Ms Murray could not visit her sick daughter in hospital because of the actions of anti-water charges demonstrators.

Chief Whip Paul Kehoe told independent.ie that he will refer the matter to the Oireachtas Committee on Procedure and Privileges. Ms Coppinger now faces being investigated over the comments.

Online Editors

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