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Water Protest

Wide condemnation of 'midget parasite' abuse of President Higgins

The protesters shouted at the President and scuffled with Gardaí as his car left an event at a Finglas school.

Updated at 7.07pm

Youtube / Edenmore Says No Youtube / Edenmore Says No / Edenmore Says No

FOOTAGE HAS EMERGED of an incident last week where President Michael D Higgins was targeted by anti-water charges protesters.

The video, posted on Youtube by protest group Edenmore Says No, was taken as the President left Colaiste Eoin in Finglas.

One demonstrator can be heard calling Higgins a “midget parasite”.

Shouts of “scumbag” and “traitor” follow, as the President leaves the area in his official car, and Gardaí clear the way.

A protester can also be heard muttering “take him out” and calling a Garda a “f***ing a**hole” as the demonstrators scuffle with Gardaí.

Youtube / Edenmore Says No Youtube / Edenmore Says No / Edenmore Says No

It’s not the first time the President has been targeted by water protesters.

Last month, around 50 people gathered outside Áras An Uachtaráin for a demonstration, which coincided with confirmation that Higgins had signed the contentious Water Services Bill into law. 

TDs and senators opposed to the new charging regime had made an 11th hour appeal asking him to refer the bill to the Council of State.

However a press release from the Áras said the legislation had been signed into law after being given due consideration by the President “taking into account Bunreacht na hÉireann including Article 26 and the submissions received”.

The protest footage was covered in several newspapers this morning.

In comments reported in the Examiner, Anti Austerity Allliance TD Paul Murphy maintained the President was a legitimate target for protesters. The paper reported that he said use of the word ‘midget’ was “ableist”.

Government reaction

The actions of the protesters have been condemned by Government figures.

In an interview with Newstalk’s Pat Kenny, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the President was above party politics and that he deplored completely what had happened.

“I have to say that in the last 12 months I have met people quite a number of people myself, and it’s not just agression that they were putting forth, but in some cases absolute hatred,” the Taoiseach said.

“I’m reading people’s faces for a long time… It’s a very small number.”

He added:

“This kind of activity is to absolutely deplored.”

“Fair enough, in the hurley-burley… in the world we live in, party politics and those that are involved in it can take these things and understand them, as the Uachtaráin did when he was a politician himself.

He’s now in a different space. People irrespective of their political affiliations or none should not have anything to do with this and I deplore it completely.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar, speaking earlier, said the actions of the protesters amounted to an attack on the Constitution.

“If a bill is constitutional, he has to sign it, it’s not his choice as to whether he signs it or not,” he told Morning Ireland.

“Even the kind of language used against him is beneath common decency.”

Not fair

In a round of interviews this afternoon, Paul Murphy said that the Examiner headline ‘TD defends Higgins abusers’ had been unfair and stressed that while he had defended peoples’ right to protest against the President in his comments to the paper, he had also “explicitly and strongly” criticised any personal abuse directed against Higgins.

The point is, tactically, this is not the way we’re going to fight the water charges.

“The anger that exists in people, which is entirely understandable, needs to be allied to a strategy which can win, which is about building confidence and building for non-payment of the charges.”

Speaking on the News At One, local Labour TD John Lyons said the abuse shouted at the President was “absolutely shameful”, adding that those responsible should be “ashamed”.

He said the behaviour was not representative of how the majority of people in Finglas feel, noting that many of the protesters responsible for the “thuggery” were not from the area.

Lord Mayor

This evening, Dublin’s Lord Mayor Christy Burke told that the comments were  ”absolutely disgusting”.

“I think Michael D is a gentleman. I think we should be proud to know he’s our president.”

Burke said that “everyone has a right to protest” but what happened today went “too far”.

Additional reporting: Órla Ryan

Read: President Michael D Higgins has signed the Water Services Bill >

Read: 49 TDs and senators in eleventh-hour appeal to Michael D over Water Bill

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