A total of 13 people have been arrested and charged in connection with a protest at Leinster House on Wednesday, September 20, as it returned for its first session after the summer break.
The demonstration saw a group of roughly 200 gathered outside the Dáil, intimidating government officials and chanting in opposition to migration, trans rights, hate speech laws, sex education and more. A mock gallows was also displayed, featuring a stuffed figure hanging from a noose and photographs of high-profile politicians like Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, and Ministers Simon Coveney, Norma Foley and Roderic O’Gorman.
Although the main entrance to the building was fenced off with steel barriers, those entering and exiting the premises were approached and confronted by demonstrators and called “traitors” by the crowd.
They have a gallows and a noose set up at the Dáil with photos of TDs stuck to it. If you haven’t paid attention before, please do now. This is an extremely violent group of far-right people. Stay well away from the area all day today. ?
— Cork Rebels for Peace (@RebelsForPeace) September 20, 2023
Footage on social media showed Cork Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire being prevented access to the building on Kildare Street as he was surrounded by an angry group of protestors. Similarly, Kerry Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae was aggressively approached, later alleging that his intern had also had her phone stolen during the incident.
Furthermore, Healy-Rae reported that Gardaí had to endure horrific abuse throughout the day and even had missiles thrown at them. Another Leinster House staff member told The Journal that they witnessed what appeared to be a bottle of urine thrown across the wall into the building’s car park.
TDs leaving the Oireachtas in the evening had to be escorted out in their cars by authorities, who had earlier warned them to remain in the complex for safety reasons. The nearby National Library of Ireland was also forced to shut as a result.
A senior Garda officer has been appointed to lead investigations into the matter, with two of those arrested, both men in their 40s, having already been brought before the court. The remaining detainees, two women in their 30s and 40s and nine men ranging in age from their 20s to 60s, are due at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin at a later unspecified date.
Violent fascist thugs attempt to block a democratically elected member of Dáil Éireann from entering Leinster House, and stop him from representing the constituents who voted for him. pic.twitter.com/g8C7wHbMZn
— Durruti Dub (@DurrutiDub) September 20, 2023
Many politicians have since spoken out against the protest at the Dáil, with Leo Varadkar saying, “Security in Leinster House is lighter than most parliaments. That’s a good thing, because we want to be accessible to the public, but we need to make sure that our elected representatives are safe in the work they do.”
The Taoiseach made the comments from New York, where he is attending the UN General Assembly alongside Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who called the protest a “very personalised attack” on his colleagues.
“That’s unacceptable and irreprehensible…There’s no need for that kind of behaviour,” Martin stated.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee described the scenes outside the Dáil as “disgraceful”, adding, “While we will always protect the right to peaceful protest, what we saw yesterday was the intimidation and threatening of elected representatives and members of An Garda Síochána doing their work on behalf of the people and the State. This has no place in our democracy.”
The Minister also confirmed that she has spoken to the Garda Commissioner and the Superintendent in Pearse Street about the protest, and that various members of the force will be meeting with the Oireachtas today to “discuss the policing and security approach around Leinster House.”
While we will always protect the right to peaceful protest, what we saw yesterday was the intimidation and threatening of elected representatives and members of An Garda Síochána doing their work on behalf of the people and the State. This has no place in our democracy.
— Helen McEntee TD (@HMcEntee) September 21, 2023
In a letter to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, Fine Gael senator Barry Ward wrote: “Public representatives should never be jostled, harassed or intimidated the way they were today, and the credibility of An Garda Síochána is at stake if strong action is not taken to ensure this behaviour is not repeated and our democratic institutions are protected.”
Similarly, Senator and Cathaoirleach of the Seanad Jerry Buttimer recommended establishing a “sterile area” around the property that would cover Marrion Square, Mount Street, Kildare Street and Molesworth Street, allowing Oireachtas members and staff to move freely in and out. Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl has said that these types of “safe zones” may have to be considered.
The National LGBT Federation (NXF) has also responded to yesterday’s thuggish scenes where trans rights and the soon-to-be enacted Hate Offences Bill were among the targets of the protesters.
Board Director Adam Long stated: “The NXF joins in the widespread condemnation of yesterday’s shameful thuggery by far-right agitators at our national parliament. Librarians and other workers have been subjected to similar harassment and abuse by these agitators, which is also utterly unacceptable and merits a robust response.
“A wake-up call if needed.”
The NXF joins in the widespread condemnation of yesterday’s shameful thuggery by far-right agitators at our national parliament.
Librarians and other workers have been subjected to similar abuse by these agitators which is also utterly unacceptable.
A wake-up call if needed. https://t.co/FtcF7jLNew
— NXF (@nxfie) September 21, 2023
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