Gardaí arrested 13 people in Dublin on Wednesday, September 20 during a far-right protest outside Leinster House that saw demonstrators prevent politicians from leaving the Dáil (parliament) and display a mock gallows featuring images of several TDs.
Around 200 protesters gathered outside Leinster House on Molesworth Street, Kildare Street, and Merrion Street on the first day of the new Dáil term. Several protesters shouted abuse at those entering and exiting Government Buildings.
There was a sizeable Garda (Irish police) presence in the area, with some Teachta Dála (TD / members of parliament) escorted by gardaí as they entered and exited the building.
One video that surfaced online showed Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae being harassed by several protesters as he walked down the street accompanied by two gardaí. The video, which is two minutes long, shows several protesters shouting abuse at Healy-Rae, while some protesters appear to shove and jostle him.
An intern from Healy-Rae's office allegedly had her phone stolen as she left Leinster House with the Independent TD.
The 20-year-old intern, who is originally from the US, was starting her first day in Leinster House and is "very shook up" by the incident, according to the Irish Independent.
Healy-Rae said afterward that the protests would not deter him from doing his job in Leinster House.
"I’ve no issue with protesting, never have, never will but you can see the videos circulating and judge for yourselves if that behavior and use of language is acceptable," Healy-Rae said on Twitter.
Healy-Rae told Newstalk that he had no problem with people saying "politicians are doing no good" but said there is no place for what he described as "racist" language.
"There is no need to be shouting dirty language. The language they were using and what I would call the racist language - we should have no place in society for that," Healy-Rae told Newstalk.
Do they even know what they are ‘protesting’ pic.twitter.com/7iJ5gcApUg— James Kavanagh (@JamesKavanagh_) September 20, 2023
Gardaí said 13 people were arrested over the course of the day, with two of those people already appearing in court.
Protesters displayed mock gallows outside Leinster House, which were accompanied by pictures of various TDs, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald. Images of Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney, Minister for Education Norma Foley, and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman also appeared on the gallows.
Far-right protesters chanted against immigration, trans rights, and proposed hate speech laws.
They also shouted at several workers as they entered Government Buildings, labeling them as "traitors."
Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik told Irish radio station Newstalk that the protesters had engaged in violent behavior and harassment on Wednesday.
"They blocked and obstructed members of the Oireachtas and dignitaries from entering their cars, and they prevented other peaceful demonstrations from going ahead," Bacik told Newstalk.
"I know of at least two other planned political events that had to be canceled because of the risk to safety, and it's really unacceptable, this sort of obstruction."
Speaking from the US, Varadkar said a review of security at Leinster House may be needed to ensure the safety of people working in the building.
"I go into parliament buildings all over the world, security in Leinster House is lighter than most parliaments," Varadkar said on Wednesday.
"The approach is there because we want our parliament to be an open place, and we want people to be able to come and meet their TDs and Senators, but it is really important that elected representatives and staff are safe."
It has since been announced that a security review will get underway in the wake of Wednesday's protest.
Ceann Comhairle of the Dail Seán Ó Fearghaíl said serious concerns have been raised about some aspects of Wednesday's protest, adding that the nature of the protests warrants a security review.
Gardaí and security staff working at Leinster House will take part in the review, Ó Fearghaíl said.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael Senator Barry Ward has written to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to ask what steps will be taken to protect Ireland's democratic institutions.
Ward said TDs and Senators have had the right to attend parliament since the foundation of the Irish State but said that right was disrupted on Wednesday.
Cathaoirleach of the Seanad Jerry Buttimer has also called for a policing plan to guarantee politicians access to both sides of Leinster House.
"No member or staff should be prevented from leaving their work or subjected to vitriolic behavior," Buttimer said.
Buttimer said staff working at Leinster House feared suffering injury or harm during the protests, adding that some staff members were very upset.
"The perimeter at Kildare Street and Merrion Street must be a sterilized zone and it's important now that the Oireachtas, gardaí, and city council sit down and prepare a policing plan," Buttimer said.
"I have never witnessed the behavior and the thuggery of yesterday," he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.
Buttimer praised gardaí and said their proactivity prevented any serious injuries on Wednesday.
Gardaí said in a statement that a policing plan was put in place to facilitate the resumption of the 33rd Dáil.
"On a number of occasions, gardaí were required to intervene during public order incidents which occurred on Molesworth Street, Kildare Street and Merrion Street," gardaí said in a statement.
"Regular uniform gardaí were supported by plainclothes units and the Public Order Unit in 'soft cap' mode.
"In total 13 arrests were made over the course of today connected with incidents in the vicinity of Government Buildings."
Tánaiste Micheál Martin described the use of a mock gallows as "reprehensible".
Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said he was appalled by Wednesday's protests.
"I just have to make the point that what we saw happen yesterday is so rare. It's such an infrequent occurrence in our democracy, and for the vast majority of people who vote within our country, for politicians, it just reaffirms the value to me of casting a vote, and in particular casting a vote for those who are working hard trying to make Ireland a better place inside a democracy," Donohoe said.
Donohoe said conspiracy theorists have amplified people's fears through different forms of digital communications. He also said a "small number of people" are using the cost of living crisis and the Irish Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic for "more sinister purposes".