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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking to reporters today.
dáil protests

Taoiseach hopes Garda Commissioner's review of politicians' security 'won't go too far'

The Garda Commissioner is to submit a review on the safety of politicians and Oireachtas staff by the end of next month.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 22nd 2023, 7:02 PM

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he hopes that any changes made in light of the Garda Commissioner’s review of politicians’ security and protection “won’t go too far”. 

Varadkar said that one of the “great things” about Ireland is that politicians and political staff don’t live in a “security bubble”. 

“It’s important that whatever is done improves security for us and our staff, but [we] shouldn’t go too far,” he told reporters today. 

The Taoiseach added that he is aware that in some countries parliaments and the “area around them” become “no go areas”, with no one allowed in without a a pre-approved pass and a police check “48 hours before hand”. 

He said that in his view such measures would be “over the top” in Ireland, but added that he doesn’t believe anyone is proposing they should be brought in.

His comments come as Justice Minister Helen McEntee announced earlier today that the Garda Commissioner will conduct a security and protection review for Oireachtas members and staff following “disturbing scenes” outside the Dáil on Wednesday. 

McEntee said that she has asked Drew Harris to undertake the review of safety measures to protect TDs, senators, their staff and people working on the Oireachtas campus. 

The review is to be concluded by the end of October. McEntee will consider it alongside work by her officials, in order to examine whether “existing legislation” is sufficient to “deal with intimidation centred on our democratic institutions”. 

She said she is also consulting with the Attorney General on the matter. 

Minister McEntee said justifiable concerns have arisen in light of the recent incidents and protests.

The protests saw 200 people gather outside Leinster House – many of whom carried signs and banners featuring anti-immigration slogans. 

Over the course of the day, 13 people were arrested for public order offences as TDs and other staff were effectively trapped inside the building, as protestors blocked the Merrion Street entrance to the building. 

Politicians and staff were verbally abused and jostled. 

One group of protestors erected a makeshift imitation of a gallows featuring images of politicians from across the political spectrum. Pictures of Drew Harris and former Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan were also attached to the frame, hanging from nooses. 

The aggressive tone of the protest was clear and was especially evident in the video footage that has circulated online of Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae being escorted through frenzied protesters as he left the Dáil in the afternoon.



In full, McEntee said: “It is clear that, over recent years, there has been a significant increase in the level of abuse, on- and off-line, targeted at politicians, their staff and those working in our democratic institutions. 

“There has been a noticeable deterioration in the tone and content of some, increasingly personalised, commentary on political and public affairs, particularly on social media.

“We saw this aggression and coarseness evident in the disturbing scenes outside Leinster House this week. I am determined to take all steps to ensure this does not develop further.

“We must also ensure that the small minority who wish to attack democracy do not deter people from participating in politics and engaging in public life.  Political engagement, vigorous debate are vital to public life and our thriving democracy.

“Ireland is not immune from the coarsening of debate and physical risks that we have seen elsewhere so we will take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of all those who participate in public life.

“I have asked the Garda Commissioner to carry out a review of security and protection of TDs, senators, their staff and people working on the Oireachtas campus, and I expect to receive a final report by the end of October.”

- Additional reporting from Christina Finn. 

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