Protesters shouting ‘shame’ and ‘no to NATO’ have interrupted the Government’s Forum on International Security Policy.
The forum, which aims to kickstart debate on Ireland’s neutrality and foreign policy, is due to run for four days with meetings in Cork, Galway and Dublin.
The meeting has come in for strong criticism, not least from President Michael D Higgins, who warned it was ‘playing with fire’ during a period of ‘drift’ in Irish foreign policy.
Opposition parties including Sinn Féin, Labour, the Social Democrats and People Before Profit have all defended the President’s right to speak on the matter and voiced concern about the forum.
Up to 50 protesters gathered outside the first day of the forum in Cork this morning – and as the Tánaiste Micheál Martin got to his feet to speak, a small group inside the UCC lecture hall began their protest.
The protesters could be heard shouting ‘shame on you’ and ‘you’re a disgrace’ as well as ‘no to NATO, no to war’.
They can also be heard shouting their opposition to the militarisation of Ireland and ‘Increased participation in imperialist military blocs’.
In response, the Tánaiste can be heard shouting, “The most undemocratic thing you can do is try to shut down debate and that’s what you are trying to do”.
The protesters were then removed by Gardaí.
‘There is nothing to be afraid of in this debate.’
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) June 22, 2023
Speaking outside the forum this morning, Minister Martin said there was ‘no need’ for the protest.
“We anticipated that there would be some attempt like that,” he said.
“I am a democrat; I believe in free speech – I believe in peaceful protest as well but I also believe that people should allow others speak and I think the efforts this morning were efforts to disrupt the flow of the consultative forum and not to allow it to get off the ground.
“I would invite anybody to look at the subsequent conversation with the panel – there is nothing to be afraid of in this debate.”
The Tánaiste said the forum a range of perspectives on Irish foreign policy – both from the audience and online.
“There was no need for that in the beginning of this at all,” he said.
“People were able to register - which some did - to articulate their views, but I think to register to simply, sort of, shut down debate is not the right approach.
“I think, subsequently, as the debate developed and as the discussion developed, I think we can see that this is a good exercise, it is a constructive exercise and many people in the audience had the chance to have their perspectives articulated.”
My statement on being ejected from today's so-called #ConsultativeForum.
As a side observation, it's amazing how some people love talking about women and democracy until the precise moment a democratically-elected woman opens her mouth. pic.twitter.com/cCI9ksjXqe
— Lorna Bogue (@LornaBogue) June 22, 2023
The interruptions continued after the protesters were removed – with audience members speaking out during the Tánaiste’s speech as well as during a speech from Forum chair Louise Richardson.
Meanwhile, An Rabharta Glas Councillor Lorna Bogue also spoke out during the opening address – noting that ‘not a single opposition politician was invited to speak at the debate’.
In a statement afterwards, the former Green Party member labelled the forum a box-ticking exercise, and claimed the Department of Foreign Affairs was “not interested in any real debate or consultation”.
She said she was “particularly angered at being told to leave and not come back” – noting that she has “more of a democratic mandate than the chair or many of the panellists’.
The forum continues in Galway tomorrow when a panel will discuss Ireland’s triple-lock system – the three-stage process which must be activated before more than 12 members of the Irish Defence Forces can be deployed abroad.