Monday 18 February 2019

The week that shook Republic to its core

Chilling threats sent to Taoiseach's phone as anarchy hits the streets

Clash: A Garda and a protester have a brief encounter at yesterday’s incident near Tallaght. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The Taoiseach has revealed that he has received chilling and abusive threats on his mobile phone.

Daniel McConnell

Enda Kenny intends to play down the extraordinary and unprecedented texts sent directly to his personal phone at the height of the water charges protests, which coincided with the Mairia Cahill rape controversy.

The Sunday Independent has learned, however, that Mr Kenny took the Fine Gael parliamentary party into his confidence during a recent discussion about growing threats to, and intimidation of, Government TDs.

A senior Fine Gael source said: "The Taoiseach referred to hundreds of calls, voicemails and messages and described the abuse as 'terrible'."

Yesterday, Tanaiste Joan Burton was barricaded into her car for hours by anti-water protesters in Dublin, who were joined by the Anti-Austerity Alliance TD, Paul Murphy, the former Socialist Party MEP who defeated Sinn Fein to win a recent by-election.

Read more: Joan Burton trapped in car during ugly water protest

Mr Murphy tweeted from the scene: "Joan Burton blocked in by peaceful protesters in Jobstown.#nowatercharges #wewontpay".

But Ms Burton's spokesman last night said the actions of the protesters "veered into outright intimidation and confrontation".

He said: "Paul Murphy is a member of Dail Eireann and it's incumbent on everybody in positions of leadership in a democracy to encourage people to behave in a peaceful way that does nothing to undermine the social cohesion of the country."

The Government is next week set to announce a package which will almost certainly take the heat out of the water charges issue.

The package, which is expected to satisfy the demands of most of those who oppose water charges, consists of a two-tier system: one-adult households will pay €76 a year and all other households, irrespective of the number of adults, will pay €178. Water meters are not expected to come into effect until 2018; as long as the flat charge applies, children's PPS numbers will not be sought by Irish Water; only one adult number will be required by the Department of Social Protection to receive a €100 "conservation payment".

Read more: Irish Water is watching you - from above

Notwithstanding the likely resolution of the water charges question, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was yesterday still riding on the coat-tails of the anti-water charges movement, which was started at local community level.

Yesterday's protest in Tallaght, which developed into a near riot, has sparked real concern in Government circles that legitimate protests have been exploited to destabilise the State.

At an internal party conference in the Red Cow Hotel, in Dublin, yesterday, Mr Adams continued to stoke the protests as part of Sinn Fein's General Election strategy, by calling for the "biggest possible mobilisation" at a planned protest on December 10.

He also continued to deny any Sinn Fein involvement in the growing scandal of IRA sex abuse and subsequent cover-up.

The sex abusers, he claimed, were not "representative" of the IRA or prisoners who served "hard time", or those he called "our Patriot dead."

In the Sunday Independent today, Ms Cahill writes: "Every time they peddle an untruth, or try to blacken my character, that punch in the gut feeling comes again."

The threats to the security of the Taoiseach in recent weeks and to the Tanaiste's person yesterday are an indication that peaceful and effective anti-water charges protests nationwide have been hi-jacked to an extent by extreme groups.

Ms Burton became trapped in her car, which was circled by around 100 protesters as she attempted to leave a higher education graduation ceremony for students in Jobstown, Tallaght.

Read more: Gardai probe 'IRA' kidnap threat to TD

Scuffles broke out and protesters surrounded and banged loudly on her car. Items were also thrown and protesters chanted "shame on you" and "peaceful protest".

Senior Garda management are this week expected to assess the security implications of yesterday's incident. A senior source said officers were likely to discuss the prospect of organising increased Garda protection for senior Cabinet ministers at public engagements.

Mr Kenny is understood to have been taken aback by the explicit nature of the threats sent to his mobile phone but does not intend to react other than to ensure his security arrangements are under constant review.

Mr Kenny led the charge on behalf of IRA rape victim, Mairia Cahill, in a historic debate in Dail Eireann last week, which placed the spotlight on the Sinn Fein leadership.

The following day, an important cornerstone of parliament, the Office of An Ceann Comhairle, was challenged by Mr Adams and his deputy, Mary Lou McDonald, who staged a Dail sit-in on the water charges issue in a thinly disguised effort to distract from the sex abuse scandal.

Yesterday, Mr Adams was unapologetic and repeated his criticism of the Ceann Comhairle, Sean Barrett, claiming his treatment of Ms McDonald was "unfair and petulant".

In his speech yesterday, Mr Adams continued his party's expropriation of 1916: "Sinn Fein will continue to work to make the Proclamation a reality in an independent united Ireland."

Furthermore, the Sinn Fein leader yesterday refused, when asked, to retract his controversial "editor at gunpoint" comments despite calls for him to do so by world media organisations.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section