The second day of Elizabeth Windsor’s state visit to the Twenty-Six Counties saw éirígí activists and supporters staging protests at Islandbridge and Dublin Castle. The first protest was called after it was revealed that up to thirty leading members of the Ulster Defence Association had been invited to attend a wreath-laying ceremony in the Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge.
Before the protest even began, however, it was clear that the Gardaí were intent on provoking conflict. As éirígí Dublin City Councillor Louise Minihan arrived at the assembly point at Kilmainham Jail her car was pulled over and searched. During the course of the search a banner with the words ‘Fund Communities, Not Royal Visits!’ was seized on the spurious grounds of it being “offensive material”. A video of the search can be seen below.
By the time the Gardaí had completed their search of Minihan’s car a force of at least forty Gardaí had assembled outside of the building where the leaders of the 1916 rising were executed. There is little doubt that those brave men would have been disgusted at the prospect of the British Head of State and her UDA henchmen being afforded such an extravagant welcome by the Dublin government.
With Windsor now in the Memorial Gardens the thirty or so protesters made their way along Inchicore Road with the intention of demonstrating at the junction of Memorial Road and the N4. But this was not to be, as the Gardaí blocked access to Memorial Road with a line of rapidly deployed boys in yellow. When questioned on the legality of his impromptu roadblock, the commanding Garda replied that he was acting under the provisions contained within Section 21, a phrase that was becoming all too familiar to people across Dublin.
With their preferred route to the Memorial Gardens blocked the protesters returned to Kilmainham Jail to lay a wreath in memory of the victims of the UDA, before making a second attempt to access the Gardens. On this occasion upwards of 100 Gardaí were deployed to block the junction of South Circular Road and the N4. Although not as close to the Memorial Gardens as had been originally intended, the protesters’ voices, whistles and bodhráns loudly proclaimed their opposition to the mass murderers of the UDA.
While the protest may not have been particularly large that did not diminish from the hugely important principle upon which is was based; that it was morally bankrupt for the Twenty-Six County authorities to invite the leaders of one of the most vicious of unionist death squads to Dublin. As befitting an act of solidarity with the victims of the UDA, the protest was conducted with discipline and dignity throughout, despite the provocations of the state’s bully-boys.
éirígí Sligeach activist Gerry Casey, who was among those taking part in the demonstration at Islandbridge, slammed the actions of the Gardai in attempting to prevent legitimate peaceful protests as "beneath contempt".
Casey said: "It is highly ironic that those of us protesting against the presence of the UDA at Islandbridge are intimidated and threatened while those unionist death squad leaders are received as special guests complete with Garda protection. Even more so was the fact that Gardai siezed a 'fund communities not royal visits' banner from the car of Cllr Louise Minihan on the basis that it was somehow 'offensive'."
"What was really offensive was not a political banner but the presence of the UDA death squads and the role of the Gardai in attempting to prevent our protest. Their intimidation of protesters by issuing threats to arrest searching cars and individuals, seizing political material, manhandling people and trying to prevent photos and video footage being taken was beneath contempt."
Casey concluded: "Once again the Gardai have shown themselves as a political police force who have no hesitation in breaking their own laws in order to protect the interests of the political and business elite in this state. They also have put the interests of the British state and their proxies in the unionist death squads before the interests of the citizens of this state, in particular the families of the victims of collusion who continue to seek justice for their loved ones."