Gardaí remove protesters after Micheál Martin heckled at security policy forum

Gardaí Remove Protesters After Micheál Martin Heckled At Security Policy Forum
Tánaiste Micheál Martin looks on as protesters interrupt the opening session of the forum on international security and defence policy. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
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By Cillian Sherlock, PA

Gardaí have removed a number of protesters from the first session of the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy in Cork after they interrupted the opening address of Tánaiste Micheál Martin.

Mr Martin continued to speak to the audience at University College Cork as the demonstrators shouted slogans including: “No to Nato.”


The minister accused the protesters of attempting to shut down debate, which he characterised as undemocratic.

Gardaí then escorted another man from the lecture hall during the opening address of the chair Prof Louise Richardson.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin attempts to continue his opening address to the forum. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

His exit was immediately followed by further interruptions from two other members of the audience including Cork City councillor Lorna Bogue.


Prof Richardson described the event as “participatory democracy with all its strength and weaknesses”.

“We are not allowing disruptions of speeches, I have the floor at the moment,” she said.

The four-day forum on Irish security and defence policy began on Thursday amid criticism of the line-up of speakers from the opposition and president.

The aim of the event is to build public understanding and generate discussions on foreign, security and defence policies.


The Government said the forum, which also sits in Galway on Friday and Dublin on Monday and Tuesday, will include civilian and military experts and practitioners representing “a breadth of experience and views”.

The triple-lock mechanism for foreign troop deployments and Ireland’s neutrality are expected to be examined as part of the conversations on foreign and defence policy.

The proceedings will be chaired by Prof Richardson, Oxford’s first woman vice-chancellor, who was recognised in the UK’s 2022 Queen’s birthday honours for services to higher education.

The schedule includes panels on the global security environment and the European situation following the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as discussions on cybersecurity and threats to critical infrastructure.


'Playing with fire'

It comes as the President said Ireland is “playing with fire” in a drift towards Nato.

In an interview with the Sunday Business Post, Michael D Higgins criticised the line-up of those invited to speak at the forum, saying they comprised “the admirals, the generals, the air force, the rest of it”.

Mr Higgins had also referred to Prof Richardson as a person with a “very large letter DBE” (Dame Commander of the British Empire) after her name.

He has since apologised to Prof Richardson for the “throwaway” remark.


Opposition parties have also been critical of the Government’s approach to the forum as well as the line-up of speakers.

Sinn Féin spokesman on foreign affairs and defence Matt Carthy said an independent foreign policy “has served us well and that neutrality should be enshrined in the constitution”.

“We cannot allow neutrality to be recast as a weakness by those who would have us further aligned to Nato.

“Ireland’s neutrality is a strength. It is about showing leadership on the world stage, finding solutions, de-escalating crises and, where needed, contributing to peacekeeping missions.

“It is about ensuring our security in a turbulent world.

“While government have clearly sought to use this forum to reshape public opinion rather than facilitate a genuine public discussion, Sinn Féin will use the limited opportunity available to us to set out that neutrality has served Ireland well and will be crucial to allowing us to play a positive and constructive role in the world.”

Solidarity TD for Cork North-Central Mick Barry said the forum had been loaded with speakers who support increased European militarisation and hold pro-Nato views.

However, Mr Martin has said there were “no predetermined outcomes” for the process.

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