LEO VARADKAR HAS said that there is a “very sinister fringe” of water charges protesters who behave in a violent way.
The Health Minister was speaking following a demonstration outside Coolock Garda Station in Dublin last night.
He said that some protesters are particularly aggressive towards gardaí, noting: “It’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt or worse.”
Varadkar made the comments on Newstalk Breakfast. When presenter Ivan Yates asked if he was “smearing” the 150,000 people who marched in anti-water charges protests across the country last Saturday, he said he was not and stressed that he knows most demonstrators are peaceful.
Speaking in Cork today, the Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said:
I worry from a society point of view and from being a citizen of this country about the motives of a very very very small quantity of those people. I believe there is a fringe out there who are using genuine people, genuine protesters for other political ambitions and it is sinister…and that would be the feeling of people inside and outside politics.
Earlier yesterday, three people were arrested at a protest at Santry Sports Club club for obstruction. They have since been released.
Varadkar called on Sinn Féin, the Socialist Party and the Anti-Austerity Alliance to “condemn” the violence shown by some protesters.
AAA Councillor Michael O’Brien was involved in the protests yesterday. He called Varadkar’s comments “a desperate attempt by the Minister to try to discredit the anti-water charge movement and to cover up for the thuggish behaviour of the Gardaí”.
There were reports on Facebook that pepper spray was used on some protesters last night but gardaí would not confirm if this was the case.
Yesterday, the High Court granted an order setting up a 20-metre exclusion zone around water meter installations.
The Economic Management Council - comprising the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Finance and Public Expenditure Ministers – will meet today with Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Communications Minister Alex White to discuss finalising how much water charges will cost.
Varadkar said that he didn’t want to comment on numbers as “the more different figures we have out there the more confusion it’ll cause”.
He admitted that the Government is “having a bad month” but stated: “This is an issue that we’ll get on top of.”
Additional reporting: Christina Finn
Originally published: 9.56am