by Miceál O’Hurley
DUBLIN — Daíl Éireann was subjected to its own “January 6th” siege when a reported 200+ members of the public sieged the main entrance outside of Leinster House jeering Members of the Oireachtas as they attempted to leave the building. Protesters vigorously waived placards and banners emblazoned with anti-immigration messages, chanting xenophobic slogans and even issuing outright threats to lawmakers who had just returned after the summer recess. In widely disseminated videos the nationalist tune ‘Come Out, Ye Black and Tans’, a song widely associated with Republican extremists and usually popular amongst Sinn Fein followers, blared in the background while at least one woman yelled, “… Pigs. That’s all you are” then threatening in the earshot of Deputies, “We’ll find your addresses, and we’ll go to your home”.
In some of the most disturbing scenes of yesterday, almost mirroring the January 6th siege of the United States Capital building by supporters of Donald Trump seeking to keep the House of Representatives from effecting a lawful and peaceful transition of power following his electoral loss to President Joe Biden, the populist Irish mob agitating outside of Leinster House brought makeshift gallows. The gallows included depictions of an effigy being hung-to-death in mock-executions along with a framed image of prominent members of the Oireachtas. The message was meant to be menacing and threatening and it had its desired effect.
Despite the raucous, which included Deputies visibly being pushed and shoved while being escorted by members of the Gardaí, with video even recording one hooligan throwing a bottle at the head of Teachta Dála Michael Healy Rae, which barely missed him thereby avoiding serious injury, members of An Garda Síochána remained determined to safely escort lawmakers away to places of safety. At one point, some 16-cars carrying Deputies attempted to leave Leinster House but were prohibited from doing so for over 1-hour. Despite their incredible restraint, Gardaí made 13-arrests. It is unclear if more arrests will follow after reviewing videos and statements after the mob scene dispersed.
Open source video and photographs have helped to identify members of the mob who have previously turned-out to protest for People Before Profit led gatherings, Sinn Fein assemblies and various anti-immigrant/anti-Ukrainian rallies. Some, bearing a banner declaring “Ballybrack Says No” and “Irish Lives Matter” were previously associated with assemblages prior to accommodations designated for refugees were attacked to keep them from being used to house people in need. Oddly, the mob that gathered outside of Leinster House also seemingly condemned Sinn Fein’s leader, Mary Lou McDonald and Deputy Eoin O’Broin along with People Before Profit Deputies Paul Murphy and Bríd Smith. Government Ministers and Deputies were also targeted for abuse and threats by members of the mob indicating no parliamentarians function beyond the mob’s menacing ire and threats.
Many opposition Deputies, and not a few Government Deputies, have flirted with populists for many years attempting to build political support. Speaking out on “outrage” issues such as water charges, an almost 17-year long housing crisis and immigration in attempts to activate and grow a political base in the age of waning support for Ireland’s Civil War era politics has now reached an alarming state. Although relatively small in number, the populist driven extremism has increasingly caused domestic alarm, especially amongst the Gardaí. Balancing the right of free speech and assembly against menacing crowds that wield mock gallows depicting the death of lawmakers, singling-out certain members by photograph and threatening to visit their homes is a chilling development in Irish politics.
It remains to be seen how law enforcement will balance civil liberties and public order and if Deputies will cease their flirtation with enflaming potential voters by exploiting hot-button topics primarily isolating vulnerable persons. In the meanwhile, yesterday’s mob militates towards one inevitable conclusion – the mob seems intent on imposing their minority views on Irish politicians with the threat of violence being used as a tool of intimidation.
Image: Populist Irish Mob Protesting Outside Leinster House Yesterday Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins Photos