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Rioters must not be allowed to undermine fundamental rights of democrats - Ó Snodaigh

28 February, 2006


Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said those who rioted in Dublin last Saturday "must not be allowed to undermine the fundamental rights of democrats." Speaking in the Dáil this evening Deputy Ó Snodaigh expressed, on behalf of Sinn Féin, appreciation to Dublin City Council workers "who impressively cleaned up the effected streets in a matter of hours."

He said, "Those who acted disgracefully on the streets of our capital city on Saturday past were not republicans. They were, in the main, a crowd of thugs, many of them fuelled with drink. Those among them who claim to be political simply besmirched the national flag and ran riot with criminal elements.

"Sinn Féin clearly and repeatedly called on people to ignore Saturday's march. Our members and supporters did so.

"The right to march down O'Connell Street in particular is of special significance to Irish political activists. Last Saturday must be seen in perspective. The protest in support of Irish Ferries workers last December and Sinn Féin's Rally for Irish Unity demonstration in November saw up to 100,000 people and 20,000 people respectively march peacefully down O'Connell Street. Those who rioted, and those who would exploit the event of the riots to serve their own interests, must not be allowed to undermine the fundamental rights of democrats.

"Questions must also be answered by Minister McDowell and Garda Management. Was there a request from the officer in charge for additional gardai to be made available to the area for Saturday's march? Was this request turned down? Is there sufficient ongoing monitoring of the football hooligan element in the riot which was quite significant?

"Before concluding, I would like to express my appreciation on behalf of Sinn Féin, and all Dubliners, to the Dublin City Council workers who impressively cleaned up the effected streets in a matter of hours." ENDS

Full text of speech follows:

Those who acted disgracefully on the streets of our capital city on Saturday past were not republicans. They were, in the main, a crowd of thugs, many of them fuelled with drink. Those among them who claim to be political simply besmirched the national flag and ran riot with criminal elements.

Sinn Féin clearly and repeatedly called on people to ignore Saturday's march. Our members and supporters did so.

I don't know what march on O'Connell Street Deputy Crawford was referring to earlier but it was certainly not a Sinn Féin Easter commemoration.

Article 40 of the 1937 Constitution enshrines the rights of citizens to assemble and to freely express their opinions as fundamental personal rights. There is a real danger now that the events of last Saturday may be used to curtail this right to protest. The right to march down O'Connell Street in particular is of special significance to Irish political activists. Last Saturday must be seen in perspective. The protest in support of Irish Ferries workers last December and Sinn Féin's Rally for Irish Unity demonstration in November saw up to 100,000 people and 20,000 people respectively march peacefully down O'Connell Street. Those who rioted, and those who would exploit the event of the riots to serve their own interests, must not be allowed to undermine the fundamental rights of democrats.

Questions must also be answered by Minister McDowell and Garda Management. Was there a request from the officer in charge for additional gardai to be made available to the area for Saturday's march? Was this request turned down? Is there sufficient ongoing monitoring of the football hooligan element in the riot which was quite significant?

But, make no mistake about it, in the end of the day, full responsibility lies with those who engaged in violent actions in our capital city.

Before concluding, I would like to express my appreciation on behalf of Sinn Féin, and all Dubliners, to the Dublin City Council workers who impressively cleaned up the effected streets in a matter of hours. Finally, on behalf of the Sinn Fein Dail deputies I record our support for the agreed motion now before us.

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