Belfast Telegraph

Protesters picket Labour conference

Hundreds of angry protesters have stormed Garda barricades at a Labour Party conference.

Crowds of placard-waving campaigners broke through security lines to picket the Bailey Allen building at NUI Galway, where the coalition party was holding its annual party meeting.

The mob used a coffin draped in the Irish flag as a battering ram, chanting: "They say cut back, we say fight back."

There were reports of Gardai using pepper spray to hold the crowd back.

One 13-year-old protester from Ballymun said he was threatened with the spray. "I'm here because I want to fight for my future," said the young protester. "I want to be able to go to college, but Eamon Gilmore won't let that happen."

Just hours before the protest outside the university grounds descended into chaos, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore sent a message to the protesters. "[I would tell them] to have a nice day," said Mr Gilmore.

A 2,000-strong protest had marched from Galway's Eyre Square to the university campus, where some 800 Labour delegates listened to TDs debating motions on education and jobs.

The majority protested peacefully outside the grounds, but a few hundred managed to break through a Garda barricade and a scuffle ensued.

Campaigners included those from the anti-household charge movement, septic tank and turf cutter protesters. There were also representatives from rural schools fighting against Education Minister Ruairi Quinn's announcement earlier in the week that smaller schools face amalgamation due to spending cuts.

One man was arrested, but released shortly afterwards following reported appeals from People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, who was amid a crowd gathered around the Garda van in which the man was detained.

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