Thursday 21 February 2019

Water protesters keep minister in her car for 40 minutes

Jan O'Sullivan
Jan O'Sullivan

Niall O'Connor

EDUCATION Minister Jan O'Sullivan has become the latest Cabinet member to be obstructed by anti-water charge protesters.

The Labour TD was left stuck in her ministerial car at a north Dublin school for over 40 minutes as a demonstration took place outside.

It is understood that about a dozen protesters blocked Ms O'Sullivan and junior minister Aodhán Ó Riordáin from leaving the vicinity of Gaelscoil Reachrann in Donaghmede yesterday afternoon.

A decision was taken that Ms O'Sullivan would remain in the vehicle because a separate group of protesters were gathered outside a separate exit of the school.

Ms O'Sullivan was visiting the school about a building project.

A spokesperson for the minister said the protest was "peaceful" but that she was delayed for 40 minutes.

The school itself did not respond to a request for comment.

Ms O'Sullivan is the latest senior government minister to be targeted by anti-water charge protesters while on official ministerial business.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Tánaiste Joan Burton said she has no issue with anti-water charge protesters targeting the Labour Party national conference in Killarney this week so long as they do so peacefully.

Arrests

The Labour Party leader was at the centre of the infamous protest in Jobstown, west Dublin, last year during which she was held in her car for almost three hours.

The incident, which has been the subject of a garda investigation, resulted in a number of arrests earlier this month.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy was among those arrested.

Ms Burton said yesterday she has no issue with protests taking place outside the Labour conference as long as there is no trouble.

"Protest in Ireland is a cornerstone of our democracy and if they wish to come to beautiful Killarney, I'm sure that the hotel people and the hospitality people will welcome them," Ms Burton said.

"But we're a democratic party and just let me say this, the essence of democratic politics is that people should respect that everybody who is involved in politics has the right to conduct their politics and to hold their party conferences," she added.

Ms Burton said it is essential that any such protests happen within the parameters of the law.

"But of course people who want to protest, they're free to protest wherever, provided it's done within our laws," said the Dublin West TD.

A small group of protesters targeted the Fine Gael national conference in Castlebar, Co Mayo last week. They behaved peacefully and the demonstration passed off without incident.

Nonetheless, recent concerns about the safety of ministers will lead to a similarly robust garda operation in Killarney.

Irish Independent

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