Threats will undermine democracy, says O’Gorman, after home protest

By Rebecca Black and Cillian Sherlock, PA

Threats against elected representatives will undermine “essential qualities of Irish democracy”, Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman said, after a protest outside his home.

Gardaí were called on Thursday after reports that up to 12 masked men were staging a protest, some with anti-migration placards and banners, outside the property.

On Friday Mr O’Gorman said: “I want to thank local gardai in Blanchardstown for their assistance yesterday.

“Ireland has a strong democratic tradition, where public representatives are accessible and accountable to the public.


“We debate and sometimes disagree, but do so in a way that is fundamentally respectful.

“I know that is valued by people across this country, and it is valued by politicians too.

“Threats and intimidation towards publicly elected representatives and those seeking election will undermine those essential qualities of Irish democracy.

“If we were to lose those, we would lose something very dear, and not easily recovered.”

Taoiseach Simon Harris said he was “horrified” by what he described as a “chilling” protest.

He also said he was “deeply uncomfortable that the situation was allowed to develop”.

Mr Harris said he spoke to Mr O’Gorman, of the Green Party in the coalition government, about the situation on Friday.

“I was utterly horrified to see the situation,” he told reporters in Co Carlow.

“We all recognise the right to protest in a democracy but to see masked people gathering outside somebody’s family home, I think that is extraordinarily chilling and quite frankly disgusting.

“I know that the gardai have to assess each of these situations, and as Taoiseach I don’t wish to interfere in that. However, I feel deeply uncomfortable that the situation was allowed to develop outside the home of any person quite frankly, public figure or otherwise, government or opposition, and I hope in due course to have an opportunity to discuss this with gardaí.”

Asked whether he was worried about the “trajectory of this”, given former taoiseach Leo Varadkar had protests outside his home last year, Mr Harris said he was “worried to see an increase in the presence of people gathering outside people’s family homes”.

“I think that is chilling in a democracy. I think it is worrying, I think it is disturbing,” he said.

“Of course we see political discourse but there is an appropriate way to debate and raise issues, in the Dail, in council chambers, plenty of places to protest around Dáil Éireann, constituency offices and the likes.

“But I also don’t want to suggest that these people, small in number, speak for Ireland.

“My experience as a public representative, at a whole variety of levels in this country, has been that the overwhelming majority of people in this country, agree or disagree with your politics, are decent people.”