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Leo Varadkar has watched the Roscommon eviction video, but says it doesn't give a 'full understanding' of events

The incident caught on video shows a property being repossessed by private security personnel.

Image: Tom Honan

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has watched the Roscommon eviction video, but said that from what he has seen, it does not give the full picture. 

TheJournal.ie asked Varadkar if he had watched the video and whether he thought reasonable force was used by the security people. 

He answered: 

“On the video of the eviction, I have seen it. What of course I didn’t see was everything. Each time you watch a video, you need to bear in mind, there are events that happened before the video started recording, there are events that happened after the video recorded, and there were events that weren’t on video.

“I don’t think anyone can say just from that video that they have a full understanding of what happened. But certainly nobody likes to see force being used on anyone unnecessarily. Nobody likes to see evictions happen, particularly on the run up to Christmas time.”

The incident caught on video at Strokestown, Co Roscommon shows a property being repossessed by private security personnel.

Video footage

Video footage from the incident shows two local gardaí in attendance, outside the gates of the property. There has been criticism of the gardaí because they did not intervene in altercations between security staff and the family’s supporters.

There has also been widespread criticism of the actions of a large group of people who entered the property in the early hours of Sunday morning to take it back. Three people required hospital treatment and a security dog was injured and had to be put down as a result. A number of vehicles that belonged to the security company were also set on fire.

Earlier in the week, Varadkar condemned the “highly organised, highly violent” attack on the repossessed house and farm.

There was a heated exchange between Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and the Taoiseach this week, when Varadkar told him “it doesn’t take very long for your balaclava to slip”. 

The Donegal TD had been questioning Varadkar about the lack of regulation around security personnel hired by financial institutions, describing some bank enforcers and rent receivers as “thugs”. 

Varadkar avoided admonishing the security personnel, but criticised Doherty for not condemning the group of people who had attended the house at the centre of an eviction order in Strokestown last week “armed with baseball bats [who] injured three or four other people, set cars alight and caused an animal to be shot dead”. 

‘Just the start of it’ 

The case was also raised by a number of TDs this week.

Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion warned that similar incidents to those in Strokestown were likely “all throughout the country if we don’t deal with the situation that in the vast majority of cases the banks will not engage with people”.

“That’s just the start of it what we saw on Sunday,” she said, adding:

“This is going to continue if we don’t deal with it.”

Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy, who knows the family involved, appealed for calm. He said the family were extremely upset about recent events. 

“Please let everybody work to settle this situation because it is quite critical at the moment,” he said. “We have to condemn all violence and all types of thuggery but unfortunately this started with the eviction.”

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During the week, it was reported by the Irish Daily Mail that Facebook would not remove a page which contained incendiary comments relating to the eviction, but the tech company said it would remove some individual posts or comments.

A Facebook spokesperson told the Irish Daily Mail that while there was “no place for content such as bullying, incitement or glorification of violence on Facebook”, the page in question would not be shut down as it was found not to be in violation of their policies.

Commenting on Facebook’s refusal, the Taoiseach said social media posts which incite hatred or violence would not be allowed to be published by a newspaper or a broadcaster. 

Facebook comments

“Social media companies don’t seem to think that they are in anyway accountable, I know they can’t control the posts that people put up on websites or on social networks but they can take them down. And the fact that they don’t take down posts that incite hatred and incite violence is just unacceptable in my view,” said Varadkar. 

“So what we need to work out is what is the best and most effective way of changing that, and you know one of the things we are working on is a Digital Safety Commissioner and we could do that in 2019,” he added. 

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said this week he would take “all the necessary and appropriate steps” once he received a report in January from an intergovernmental group he has asked to examine the regulation of these private security operators “with a view to bringing them within the remit of the Private Security Authority”.

Earlier this week, the new Garda Commissioner Drew Harris rejected any suggestion that his members are supervising evictions or that they would stand by and allow violence to occur at one.

He did not state whether he had watched the video or not.

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