While the accessibility of Irish politicians is a “hallmark” of politics in this country, it is at risk amid increased security fears among politicians.
That’s according to Irish Independent Deputy Political Editor Hugh O’Connell following reports from the paper that armed Gardaí have begun patrolling outside the Taoiseach’s house.
There are also reports of increased Garda presence around mosques, refugee centres and synagogues in Dublin following violent riots on November 24th.
Mr O’Connell told The Anton Savage Show this move is a “significant development” for politicians’ safety, and how we perceive them.
“One of the things that has been a hallmark of Irish politics is the accessibility of politicians,” he said.
“The Taoiseach does have armed protection but it’s not on the same scale as other EU leaders, it’s nowhere near the US President.
“But now it’s not so long ago that the Taoiseach was in Merrion Square, and someone threw a milkshake at him.”
'Total wake-up call'
Irish journalist veteran Eileen Dunne said the recent unrest in Dublin and fear among politicians is something you’d expect in a “headline about something like Paris a few years ago”.
“Mr Varadkar does have a certain amount of security, obviously, but we liked to think it wasn’t happening here,” she said.
“There was the hope that we knew something was there but to keep it at bay – but this has been a total wake-up call.”
Mr O’Connell also noted Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald was confronted in her car by protestors at East Wall.
“I wonder, given she’s the leader of the opposition, given she is predicted by some to be the next Taoiseach, whether we’ve reached a point where she has to be provided with Garda protection,” he said.
“I'm just speculating but such is the hostility towards prominent politicians.”
Ms Dunne said this hostility will create a shortage of aspiring politicians soon.
“[Parties] are trying to find replacements but who would want it when you see really what goes on,” Ms Dunne said.
“People are very reluctant to be in a situation where social media abuse is off the scale and there are concerns of private safety.”
Justice Minister Helen McEntee announced additional funding of €4.4 million for the purchase of 95 extra Garda cars and vans by the end of this year.
Image: A Garda barrier near Leinster House ahead of the Budget 2024 announcement, 10-10-2023. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews