[Sinn Fein]

9 May 2002

Speech by Daithí Doolan at Demonstration on Protest Clashes

Speaking at a public demonstration organised in protest against the actions of Gardai on Monday, Sinn Fein candidate for Dublin South East Daithí Doolan said:

I would like to begin by thanking you for inviting me here today. I want to make clear that we are not here in any attempt to grab headlines or jump on any bandwagons, some of our members attended the march in a personal capacity in line with the request of RTS to keep party politics out of the event. We are here to stand in solidarity with those who were abused by the Gardai at the rally and defend the right to freedom of speech and assembly.

We have been told again and again over the last few weeks that young people are apathetic and uninterested in politics but the march organised by Reclaim the Streets showed that young people are politically minded and full credit to them for the imaginative and creative protest they organised. And it is certainly easy see why young people are turned off politics when politicians refuse to condemn Garda brutality against young peaople. For the only reasonable response to the Gardai's brutal attack is to condemn their actions and I condemn them utterly.

John O'Donoghue has preached to us of the benefits of his Zero Tolerance policies for the last five years. The truth is while the utmost leniency has been shown to corrupt members of Fianna Fail, the Gardai are showing Zero Tolerance for Free Speech, Zero Tolerance for the right to assemble and march, and Zero Tolerance for any who dare criticise them.

But it is important to remember that what happened on Dame St is but the latest Garda scandal. The McBrearty affair in Donegal, Abbeylara and other controversial fatal Garda shootings during the last number of years are among the most prominent but it is important to remember that for young people in working class estates around Dublin, alienation and abuse from the Gardai is something many of them live with every day.

The last year has seen other attacks on free speech in Dublin. The City Council attempted to restrict the right to protest on O'Connell St at the behest of local businesspeople and I am very proud that Sinn Fein played a very important role when, along with a number of other groups, we combined to stop them.

This cannot be allowed to go on. The establishment parties all call for thousands more Gardai on the streets and we have to ask whether these new Gardai will be as well trained in dealing with protests as the ones we saw in action on Monday night.

We must be very clear about what we want. First all, the Gardai involved in the disgraceful scenes on Dame St must be sacked. There is no excuse at all for their brutal behaviour.

We need a better police service, we need a police service that works in tandem with the local communities and is open and accountable. Garda Siochana literally translates from Gaelic to Guardians of Peace. It is that type of police service we want, and not the bullies that attacked demonstrators on Monday evening. Under John O'Donoghue we have had a Garda service with a Zero Tolerance policy but what we have got is Zero rights, Zero equality, Zero on Garda accountability and in the end, that just amounts to Zero sense.

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