Politicians condemn 'profoundly anti-democratic' protests at Leinster House

Politicians Condemn 'Profoundly Anti-Democratic' Protests At Leinster House
Thirteen people were arrested during demonstrations outside Leinster House on Wednesday. Photo: Collins
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Updated: 8.45am

Protests outside Leinster House on Wednesday have been condemned, with politicians describing them as "profoundly anti-democratic" and criticising the use of "racist" language.


Crowds gathered on Kildare Street in Dublin as TDs returned to the Dáil following the summer recess, with 13 people arrested during the course of the dat, two of whom have already appeared in court.

The protesters erected a mock gallows, accompanied by images of various TDs, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, held placards emblazoned with phrases including 'Irish Lives Matter', and chanted 'You'll never beat the Irish'.

Gardaí were forced to escort politicians out of the grounds as some protesters barricaded the gates.

Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said while it is important that people have the right to protest and the right to assemble, the crowds which gathered outside Leinster House on Wednesday had engaged in violent behaviour and harassment.


"They blocked and obstructed members of the Oireachtas and dignitaries from entering their cars, and they prevented other peaceful demonstrations from going ahead," Ms Bacik told Newstalk Breakfast:

"I know of at least two other planned political events that had to be cancelled because of the risk to safety, and it's really unacceptable, this sort of obstruction."

Security review

Speaking in the US, Mr Varadkar said a review of security at Leinster House may need to be carried out to ensure the safety of Oireachtas staff and elected officials.

"I go into parliament buildings all over the world, security in Leinster House is lighter than most parliaments," Mr Varadkar said.


"The approach is there because we want our parliament to be an open place, and we want people to be able to come and meet their TDs and Senators, but it is really important that elected representatives and staff are safe.

"I would think it appropriate that security is reviewed on an ongoing basis," he added.

Ms Bacik said she supported calls for a review of security arrangements, not just of the protest that took place on Wednesday, but also of threatening and intimidating behaviour online.

She said she had seen protests in the past spill over into "obstructive, threatening, intimidating events", but added that Wednesday's events indicated that far right groups were attempting to spread a message of hate.


It was a cause for concern that far right groups were attempting to "stoke racism" on social media platforms which made it important for such platforms to "take much more proactive steps to prevent attacks and indeed to take down disinformation".

"We need to review how we can ensure a safe entry and exit from the Parliament, from the building.

"This is a complex where many people work, quite apart from public representatives, the large number of people who are working as political staff, and they need to have safe access and entry to work," Ms Bacik said.

'Dirty language'

The Labour leader's concerns over the language used by some protesters was also raised by Independent TD Micheal Healy Rae, who said there is no place in society for the "racist" language used by those outside Leinster House on Wednesday.


He told Newstalk that he had no problem with people saying "politicians are doing no good" and staging protests outside the Dáil, but added there had been no need to escalate to that level of violence.

"There is no need to be shouting dirty language. The language they were using and what I would call the racist language - we should have no place in society for that."

Meanwhile, Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said he was appalled by Wednesday's protests, stating the demonstrations were not about individual politicians, political parties or even the Government, but rather against the concept of representative politics.

"I just have to make the point that what we saw happen yesterday is so rare. It's such an infrequent occurrence in our democracy,x and for the vast majority of people who vote within our country, for politicians, it just reaffirms the value to me of casting a vote, and in particular casting a vote for those who are working hard trying to make Ireland a better place inside a democracy."

Asked why he thought there was an escalated level of protest, Mr Donohoe said Ireland is not unique in having to confront this issue, perhaps a little later than in other countries.

He said the cost of living and the aftermath of the Covid pandemic and how the State handled the matter is increasingly being physically challenged by a "small number of people" for "more sinister purposes".

He said there is also the amplification of fears by conspiracy theorists spreading through different forms of digital communication.

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