Home World Alarm over ‘fascist-like’ protest at Ireland’s seat of government | Ireland

Alarm over ‘fascist-like’ protest at Ireland’s seat of government | Ireland



Ireland is reviewing security around the seat of government after aggressive protests in Dublin that trapped lawmakers, ended with 13 arrests and were condemned by the country’s leadership as “wrong” and “fascist-like”.

The Oireachtas, Ireland’s legislature, was put into a virtual lockdown for hours on Wednesday by a small but abusive group of about 200 people.

The protesters threatened staff and journalists and erected a mock gallows covered with photos of politicians from across the spectrum.

The crowd was apparently united not so much by a cause – their messages included Covid conspiracy theories, anti-immigration messages and attacks on transgender rights – as by a willingness to use aggression in a bid to shut down the heart of Ireland’s democracy.

Racist abuse was hurled at people trying to get to work along roads blockaded by the protesters. Two women had plastic bags of urine thrown at them, the Irish Times reported. One aide said she had a phone stolen.

Several legislators were trapped in a car park at one point, including the Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, and Paul Kehoe, Fine Gael’s education spokesperson.

On Thursday, the tánaiste, or deputy prime minister, Micheál Martin, described the personal abuse directed at lawmakers and their staff as “absolutely vile” and said some of the behaviour was “fascist-like”, Irish media reported.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is in Miami to open a new consulate, said the incident was dangerous, particularly at a time of rising threats to politicians and ministers across Ireland.

“What I saw happening outside Leinster House was not a peaceful protest. There was violence, there was intimidation and that was wrong,” he said.

The protests have prompted calls for greater protection for politicians and their staff. Martin, the Fianna Fáil leader, said fatal attacks on two British MPs since 2016 set a worrying precedent, and said comments on some of the protest placards “define what we mean by hate speech”.

“We saw what happened in the United Kingdom. The level and the vitriol and the nature of the presence of some people … is a grave cause for concern.”

The Garda has launched an investigation into the protests, and has already appointed a senior investigating officer. Police protection has also been restored to a large number of ministers because of threats, Varadkar said.

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“Often they come from people who make idle threats or threats that are not credible. But increasingly the briefing from the [Garda] commissioner is that threats are being made against politicians and public figures by people who have histories of violence and have convictions,” he said.

An investigation into security at the Oireachtas has also been launched, led by former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, with a report due by the end of the year.

The protests were also denounced as fascist by the Labour and People Before Profit parties. In a statement, People Before Profit warned that Ireland needed to be on alert against the rise of a far-right populist movement.

“For too long it has been assumed that Ireland would remain immune to far-right developments in the rest of the world. After yesterday’s mini re-enactment of a Trump-style protest, we can no longer assume that.”


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