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Protesters hold pictures of politicians outside Leinster House as the Dail resumes after summer recess. Brian Lawless/PA

Thirteen arrested as anti-immigration protesters threaten politicians outside Leinster House

The protesters’ signs and banners featured slogans like “Irish Lives Matter” and “Ballybrack Says No”.

LAST UPDATE | 20 Sep 2023

GARDAÍ ARRESTED 13 people today over public order incidents during protests outside Leinster House.

Around 200 protesters held a demonstration outside Leinster House bearing signs and banners featuring anti-immigration slogans as the Dáil returned to session after the summer recess. 

Some protesters also wheeled a makeshift, imitation gallows into the crowd. Photographs of prominent politicians were attached to the frame around an effigy hanging from a noose.  

TDs were escorted out of Leinster House by gardaí in a convoy as protesters blocked the entrance to the Oireachtas campus.

Protesters were heard chanting “You’ll never beat the Irish” as a string of around 14 cars were led out of the Merrion Street entrance to Leinster House by gardaí shortly before 6pm this evening. 

Gardaí have confirmed that they put a policing operation in place to enable the Dáil sitting to proceed today.

In a statement, An Garda Síochána said that “on a number of occasions gardaí were required to intervene during public order incidents which occurred on Molesworth Street, Kildare Street and Merrion Street”.

“Regular uniform Gardaí, were supported by Plain Clothes Units and the Public Order Unit in ‘soft cap’ mode.

“In total 13 arrests were made over the course of today connected with incidents in the vicinity of Government Buildings.

“A Senior Investigating Officer has been appointed, overseeing an investigation team based at Pearse Street, to coordinate and investigate all of the circumstances regarding these incidents and any other matters which may be identified as necessary for investigation which occurred around Government Buildings.”

Gardaí had confirmed earlier today that two men had been arrested and charged and photographs of the scene showed a man being restrained on the ground by four gardaí and another man being led away towards a Garda van.   

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was made aware of the protest today while visiting New York for the United Nations General Assembly. 

He told reporters: “All I would say is that in a democracy, it’s important that we respect the right to protest. But there are limitations to any right.

“And it is very important, I think that our parliament is secure. I go into parliament buildings all over the world. 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.”

Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan both condemned the presence of the mock gallows, with the Tánaiste describing it as “unacceptable and reprehensible”. 

One Leinster House staff member told The Journal that they witnessed what they said appeared to be a bottle of urine thrown across the wall into the Leinster House car park by a protester.

This afternoon, protesters circled Independent TD for Kerry Micheal Healy-Rae as he left Leinster House escorted by Gardaí. 

A video of the encounter posted on X, formerly Twitter, showed protesters shouting abuse at the politician with one person yelling: “You’re filth, you’re worse than a piece of shit”.

Speaking on Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder this evening, Healy-Rae said his intern was “pushed and shoved” by protesters and that after the altercation her phone was gone from her pocket. 

When asked if he was saying she was “assaulted and robbed on her first day of work”, Healy-Rae responded: “Correct”.

He said today’s protest was “not what he called a real protest”. 

“They’re not real protesters today, they are on a different agenda,” Healy-Rae said.

Speaking about the protest, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he had not seen the images but that personalised attacks and the targeting of politicians was “unacceptable and reprehensible”. 

Martin, who is also in New York at the moment with the Taoiseach, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly added:

“We live in a parliamentary democracy, notwithstanding the flaws in any democracy, many people have commented to me here at the UN at various events that I have been at about how Ireland is politically effective now when harnessing civil society in our debates on a whole range of issues… people are actually interested in the processes we use to try and get greater input from civic society.

“There was no need for that kind of behaviour,” he said.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also strongly condemned the protest.

Ryan said: “Those sort of protests are a direct attack on the Irish constitution, on the republic, on the idea that we are all equal, all sovereign in our country. 

“How dare they, is what I say,” Ryan said. 

By 4.30pm, the protest had largely dissipated from Kildare Street but some protesters had moved around to the Merrion Street entrance of Leinster House and were blocking staff and reporters from entering the Oireachtas campus. 

Protesters linked arms and told those trying to enter that they could not pass. Gardaí did not intervene, instead telling people to enter the campus at the Kildare Street entrance.

At the Kildare Street entrance, protesters were playing songs over a speaking including ‘Come Out, Ye Black and Tans’.

A woman addressed the crowd with a microphone following the music and expressed anger at the Gardaí and politicians.

It was unclear who she was referring to when she said: “Pigs that’s all you are.” 

She added: “We’ll find your addresses, and we’ll go to your home”.

Shortly after, two women protesters were detained by Gardaí and led away from the scene. Protesters began shouting at the Gardaí in response with one individual yelling: “Get it together for us. They are the enemy.”

The National Library of Ireland, which is located next to Leinster House, closed for some of the day due to “access difficulties”. 

“With access difficulties due to an ongoing protest, the Main Kildare Street Campus (Yeats Exhibition, Main and Family History Reading Rooms and Ticket Office) will be closed to the public today. Apologies for the inconvenience caused,” the library announced on X (formerly Twitter). 

With reporting from David MacRedmond and Christina Finn. 

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