Irish Republican News · September 6, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Dublin protest derails Blair spin machine

Several hundred people took to the streets of Dublin on Saturday to demonstrate against the presence of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the capital.

The protests, organised by eirigi and the Irish Anti-War Movement, took place outside Eason’s bookshop, and overshadowed an event at which Blair was to sign copies of his book.

At 10.30am, as Blair arrived on O’Connell Street, the protest surged forward with shouts of “Arrest the War Criminal”. Eggs and shoes were thrown in symbolic protest as he was shielded by members of the Gardai police and private security using umbrellas.

At this point, the Gardai turned violent and drew their batons on peaceful protesters, including members of eirigi, while others threatened to use pepper spray. Protestors responded to the onslaught with chants of Gardai-RUC, possibly in reference to Blair’s sanction of an RUC attack against a similar protest on the Garvaghy Road in Portadown in 1997.

As the Gardai attacked the crowd, they arrested a number of protestors.

These arrests lead to an impromptu sit down protest on O’Connell Street, which blocked the route of the Garda vans attempting to ferry one of those arrested to Store Street barracks. Members of the Garda Public Order Unit then attempted to remove people from the road, throwing punches and kicks as they did so.

The protest was not confined to the streets however. A number of anti-war activists attempted to gain access to the book signing by queuing up on Abbey Street amongst the supporters of the war criminal.

One protester, Niall Farrell of the Galway Alliance Against War, was forcibly removed from Eason’s for being a “security risk”.

However, Kate O’Sullivan, a member of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, managed to reach Blair and attempted to make a citizens arrest, citing his record as a ‘war criminal’, before being detained by Gardai and private security for over 30 minutes.

Blair’s visit and the launch of his memoirs were heavily promoted in the Irish establishment media, including the pre-eminent state-operated ‘Late Late’ television chat show. Newspaper coverage has focused on his ‘good’ involvement in the Irish peace process rather than his ‘bad’ wars in the Middle East.

While Blair broadly praised Irish politicians, including the Sinn Fein leadership, he attacked eirigi general secretary and Garvaghy Road Residents coalition spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith as someone who took “unreasonableness... to an art form.”

Mr MacCionnaith said at the weekend he did not recognise himself in the book and suggested Mr Blair was “stretching the truth” as he admits elsewhere in his dealings.

“It may be guilt on his behalf, if you go back and see the numbers of deaths which were caused because of the Drumcree situation,” said Mr MacCionnaith, now general secretary of the republican splinter group eirigi.

MacCionnaith, who met Blair on at least four occasions, including Downing Street, said: “It doesn’t annoy or surprise me in the slightest.

“It is up to him to explain why he takes that line.”

Mr Blair today cancelled other book-signings in London in the face of planned protests there.

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