The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, TD, has been informed of disgraceful behaviour in Ballyfermot this morning by protesters including members of Éirígí and the People Before Profit Alliance.

An event had been organised by UNICEF at a youth centre in Ballyfermot for about 80 children dealing with the issues of citizenship and the forthcoming Children's Referendum. Both the Tánaiste and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs were invited.

Despite the fact that this was an event organised for children, Érígi and People Before Profit protestors engaged in violence, thuggery and shouted expletives. In the car park of the youth centre, they surrounded the Tánaiste’s car in which the Tánaiste and Minister Fitzgerald were passengers, pelting it with eggs, beating the roof and side of the car and also hitting the windscreen of the car posing a serious risk that they would break the glass. It was fortunate that it was the Tánaiste’s garda driver who drove the Ministers to this event and was in a position to ensure their safety. Due to the violent and threatening behaviour of the protestors and because of concerns for the welfare of children attending the event, the Tánaiste and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs withdrew.

Minister Shatter said "We all recognise the right to peaceful protest. But it must represent a new low, even for the protestors involved, that they would engage in such disgraceful behaviour designed to disrupt an event organised for children and do so with complete disregard for the affect of their actions on the children. These individuals clearly have no respect for democratic values, for individual rights of freedom of expression and are clearly incapable of recognising the importance of the Children’s Rights Referendum and of ensuring that both adults and children have available to them the fullest information relating to it. Their attempt to justify their conduct as representing any real concern about the issue of child benefit is rank hypocrisy.

"Such thuggery and violence cannot and will not be tolerated in a free society. The behaviour of these individuals exhibited no insight of any nature as to its possible impact on the children present for this event, nor for their rights or welfare. I have been assured by the Gardaí that they will pursue fully any illegal behaviour which occurred.

"All right thinking people will deplore what took place and I know that the local community and those involved in organising the event are sickened by what happened.

"As I am informed that members of the self styled People Before Profit Alliance were among those engaged in the disgraceful events that occurred, I call on Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett to condemn without equivocation the actions of the protestors and give an assurance that his movement will no longer target events involving children. I also call upon him to give an assurance that neither his movement nor any member of it will engage in any conduct in the coming days and weeks to disrupt events either seeking to inform people about the proposed Children’s Rights amendment or seeking a yes vote in the forthcoming Children’s Referendum".

5 October 2012