Gilmore defends Government in face of protests15/04/2012 - 10:08:08
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore argued the Government acts only in the public interest - just hours after a violent protest disrupted his party's national conference.
An angry group of up to 1,000 campaigners stormed Garda barricades outside Labour's annual event in Galway, accusing the party of betraying the people.
However, the Labour leader and Tánaiste defended Government austerity measures, which have resulted in tax hikes and cuts to the welfare and education system.
"There is one thing about the Labour Party and this Government that nobody can deny: whatever decisions we make are made in the public interest and no other," said Mr Gilmore.
In his keynote speech at the party's centenary-marking conference, he said the Government had pulled the economy back from the brink and prevented Ireland from becoming a "banana republic".
However, he warned there was still much work to do.
Just hours before, crowds of placard-waving campaigners accused Mr Gilmore of sitting in an ivory tower and betraying both his Labour roots and the public.
They broke through security lines to picket the Bailey Allen building at NUI Galway, where the conference was being held.
The protesters used a coffin draped in the Irish flag as a battering ram, chanting: "They say cut back, we say fight back."
There were reports of gardaí using pepper spray to hold the crowd back.
One 13-year-old protester from Ballymun said he was threatened with the spray.
"I'm here because I want to fight for my future," said the youngster.
"I want to be able to go to college, but Eamon Gilmore won't let that happen."
A 2,000-strong crowd had marched from Galway's Eyre Square to the university campus, where some 800 Labour delegates listened to TDs debating motions on education and jobs.
The majority protested peacefully outside the grounds, but a few hundred managed to break through a Garda barricade and a scuffle ensued.
Earlier, Mr Gilmore sent a message to the protesters.
"[I would tell them] to have a nice day," he said.
Campaigners included those from the anti-household charge movement, septic tank and turf cutter protesters.
There were also representatives from rural schools protesting against Education Minister Ruairi Quinn's announcement earlier in the week that smaller schools face amalgamation due to spending cuts.
One man was detained, but released shortly afterwards following reported appeals from People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, who was among a crowd gathered around the Garda van in which the man was being held.
The crowd burned a copy of the Clar - the programme for the national conference - while shouting various anti-Labour and anti-Government chants.
They called politicians traitors, shouted "shame" and accused Labour of failing to representing working men and women.
"Labour Party watch your back, the working class is fighting back," they cried as Gardai held them back from entering the building where the conference was being held.
Meanwhile, Mr Gilmore also used his keynote speech to praise the work carried out by the Coalition Government.
He singled out his Labour colleagues Education Minister Ruairí Quinn, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.
The Tánaiste also said the Government's main priorities in getting Ireland's faltering economy back on track included securing investment, boosting the domestic economy and helping people in distressed mortgages.
He also appealed for the public to support the European fiscal treaty.
A referendum on whether Ireland will ratify the fiscal compact will be held on May 31.
If passed, Ireland will sign off on the treaty, which will see stricter budgetary rules in place from Europe, penalties for member states that break them and access to emergency funds.
"This treaty is about bringing stability to the euro," said Mr Gilmore.
"We do not claim it is the sole answer to Europe's economic problems, but it is a crucial part of the solution and it is necessary to restore confidence in the euro."
more stories like this:
- once per day, no spam.