Belfast Telegraph

Security reviewed after bomb threat

Security measures to protect the coalition Cabinet are under review after a bomb threat was made against a Government minister's office in an escalating campaign against water charges.

A woman caller telephoned Environment Minister Alan Kelly's constituency office in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, at around 9am this morning to deliver the warning.

The caller warned the female staff member: "We'll bomb you f******."

Mr Kelly, the minister overseeing the hugely controversial water charges, said the call to his constituency office was "of a menacing and threatening nature".

"This was a very traumatic and upsetting experience for all staff and the matter has been referred to the Gardai," he said.

"I condemn this deplorable behaviour."

The woman caller did not claim to represent any group or organisation but made clear the threat was linked to the imminent levy for water.

The threat follows a number of heated demonstrations in recent days, targeting several leading Government figures.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was heckled during scuffles outside an event in central Dublin while Finance Minister Michael Noonan had to leave through a side door from a hotel function in Limerick to avoid a noisy demonstration.

On Saturday, the Tanaiste, was barricaded in a car for two-and-a-half hours after coming under siege in Jobstown, west Dublin, by protesters.

Two teenagers were arrested at the scene. One was released without charge while the other was charged with public order offences.

The increasingly angry protests against the charges - the latest in a long line of austerity taxes and spending cuts - prompted justice minster Frances Fitzgerald to raise the security of ministers.

"Obviously we will take whatever precautions are necessary," she said.

"We want to get on with our job, and the gardai will obviously keep the security of ministers, and indeed everyone involved, they will keep that under review."

Gardai said there have been arrests and charges around the country related to water charge protests, but they were unable to immediately give an overall figure.

The Garda Ombudsman - the force's official watchdog - said it is investigating 16 complaints against officers involved in policing demonstrations.

Some of the complaints include allegations of assault, which are classified as criminal investigations, while others relate to claims of abuse of authority.

The torching of two Cork County Council water services vans in Bantry, west Cork, over the weekend is being linked by some to the growing fall-out.

Mounting protests - including the taking to the streets by 150,000 people around the country earlier this month - reflect widespread anger at the latest austerity measure imposed on Irish citizens.

Confusion remains about the level of charges - with conflicting reports suggesting between 200 and 300 euro - for an average household.

Initial estimates put the levy at up to 600 euro a year for some families.

The Fine Gael/Labour coalition government is set to reveal this week a new charge structure.

Protesters are organising a national demonstration for December 10.

Government ministers have alleged "thuggish" or "sinister" elements were infiltrating demonstrations.

Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins said the vast majority of protesters are fully peaceful, and accused the Government and some media of demonising a legitimate revolt against more austerity.

Sinn Fein has called for "family friendly and safe" protests against the levy.

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