Belfast Telegraph

Attack on ministerial car 'new low'

Protesters who attacked the car of two ministers at an event for children hit "a new low", Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald were forced to abandon an event to promote Unicef Ireland's support of the children's referendum after about 30 protesters angered over reported cuts to child benefit threw eggs, spat at and kicked a ministerial car as they arrived at a community centre in Ballyfermot, west Dublin.

Mr Shatter said such thuggery and violence cannot and will not be tolerated in a free society.

He added: "We all recognise the right to peaceful protest. But it must represent a new low, even for the protesters involved, that they would engage in such disgraceful behaviour designed to disrupt an event organised for children, and do so with complete disregard for the effect of their actions on the children.

"Their attempt to justify their conduct as representing any real concern about the issue of child benefit is rank hypocrisy."

About 70 children were in The Base community centre for the Unicef launch and were not aware of the commotion outside.

The protests were led by members of the left-wing republican group Eirigi and the People Before Profit Alliance.

A spokeswoman for the Tanaiste said the team opted not to return to the centre after extra gardai arrived and dispersed the crowd on safety grounds, mindful that there were children in the building.

A 28-year-old man was arrested at the scene and later charged in court with breach of the peace and criminal damage to a BMW car. The accused, Daniel Kelly of Harold's Cross Road in Dublin, was granted bail and will appear before a district court judge on October 26.

Mr Gilmore said he has no difficulty with people having a peaceful, dignified protest. He added: "This was a protest that turned very aggressive and we were physically prevented from going in to the event. I think that was a great shame."

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