Belfast Telegraph

Chaotic scenes in Dail as Varadkar accuses Sinn Fein of 'letting the balaclava slip' with reaction to Roscommon vigilante attack

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was involved in a stormy exchange with Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty in the Dail on Tuesday. (Oireachtas/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was involved in a stormy exchange with Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty in the Dail on Tuesday. (Oireachtas/PA)

By Kevin Doyle

A furious row has erupted after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accused Sinn Fein of ‘letting the balaclava slip’ with their reaction to a vigilante attack in Roscommon.

Sinn Fein’s deputy leader Pearse Doherty had to be repeatedly warned about his conduct after rising to his feet to demand an apology from the Taoiseach in the Dail.

The chaotic scenes came amid debate over whether private security guards who participate in evictions should be regulated.

Mr Doherty referred to those involved in evicting three people from a farmhouse near Strokestown, Co Roscommon as “thugs” and “henchmen”.

He said “gardai were watching on” as “thuggery” was carried out.

Sinn Fein want a new category of security personnel to come under the remit of the Private Security Services Act 2004. The aim would be to ensure that anyone involved in an eviction would be subject to standards, oversight, licensing and a carry ID in the same way bouncers and other security personnel do.

Mr Varadkar agreed that there may need to be stronger laws in the area, noting that it was probably overlooked when the original Act was drawn up.

He said Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan will get a report from an expert group in January and will move to tighten regulations if necessary.

Referring to the Roscommon case, Mr Varadkar said people needed to be careful not to make assumptions.

He said the High Court has a “very high barrier for allowing evictions to happen”.

Photo: The Democrat Newspaper, Roscommon.
Photo: The Democrat Newspaper, Roscommon.

Mr Varadkar then questioned why Sinn Fein were so quick to criticise those working on behalf of the bank involved but had nothing to say about a vigilante gang which arrived at the property over the weekend.

Mr Varadkar noted that people were injured and an animal killed when up to 20 people armed with baseball bats raided the home. A number of vehicles were also set alight.

Gardai believe dissident republicans from Dublin and Northern Ireland were behind the violent attack.

“You had nothing to say about what happened afterwards,” Mr Varadkar said, adding that he found Sinn Fein’s attitude to the attack “very concerning”.

The comments drew a furious response from the Sinn Fein benches with Mr Doherty demanding the Taoiseach answer his questions.

However, Mr Varadkar continued: “It doesn’t take very long for your balaclava to slip.”

There were ructions as Sinn Féin deputies cried foul over the comments but Mr Varadkar refused to back down.

Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty questioned Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over the eviction of a family from a house in Roscommon last week. (Oireachtas/PA)
Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty questioned Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over the eviction of a family from a house in Roscommon last week. (Oireachtas/PA)

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