Justice Minister Helen McEntee last night admitted feeling unsafe as a politician – and spoke of her fears that a TD or senator could be attacked here.
“I think that is always a possibility,” the minister said – just weeks after British MP David Amess was stabbed to death in his Essex constituency office.
And, speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors in Killarney, Co Kerry, Ms McEntee said she had sometimes felt unsafe working as a public representative.
Ms McEntee told The Mirror: “Do I feel safe? The vast majority of the time, yes.
“Have I felt certain situations where I haven’t been? Yes. But I think we need to be measured in our response.”
Ms McEntee was speaking amid growing concerns about anti-vaxx protests outside the homes of politicians, journalists and other public figures – including Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and RTE Liveline presenter Joe Duffy.
The Minister slammed anti-vaxxers who have picketed public figures homes – and accused them of crossing a line.
She said: “I think, particularly for office holders but it is the same whether it is Tony Holohan or others, there are constituency offices, there are offices that people can go to, there are always spaces that people can protest.
“When it moves to a person’s home, personally I think that is crossing a line.
“I think everybody, and particularly their family – people who are not involved perhaps in politics who aren’t involved in the day to day work – they should not be subjected to this type of abuse, that is my own personal opinion.
Sources say gardai are increasingly worried the protests could eventually lead to a physical attack on a TD or other public personality – and Ms McEntee last night admitted such an incident was always possible here.
She said: “I think that is always a possibility and that is why we need to make sure that the supports and the measures are there, that they are there to support people and that that doesn’t happen and that and we don’t want to see incidents like we have seen in the UK.”
Earlier this year, a man appeared in court charged with making a hoax bomb threat to the Minister’s Co Meath home – and she conceded she sometimes has felt unsafe as a public representative.
She also said the Department of Justice was currently reviewing security arrangements for senior politicians – and hinted that armed detectives could be reassigned to protect them full time.
Ministers were always given an armed Garda driver until the practice was ended for all but a few of them when the financial crisis hit in 2010 – but Ms McEntee said if the review recommended the return of armed bodyguards, it would be considered.
She said: “Without pre-empting the results of the review or the recommendation, if that is something that is recommended, than absolutely I will take that on board.”
The Minister also said she was aware of safety fears of other politicians here.
She said: “We have heard from many of my colleagues in recent weeks and months, particularly after the very tragic incident in the UK, where people have said they don’t feel safe so all of that has to be taken on board.”
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