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Mattie McGrath won’t apologise for “totalitarian” remark in Dáil

TDs have sternly hit out at the “totalitarian” ban on protests under the covid-19 restrictions, where taxi drivers who planned to protest inside their cars have been prohibited from demonstrating by Gardaí.

“In the last couple of hours, I have been informed by the four national representative taxi groups that the Garda has banned their planned protest, which was due to take place outside Leinster House tomorrow, on Merrion Street,” said Deputy Richard Boyd-Barrett.

“This is a shocking development. There would be no threat to public health because the taxi drivers were going to be in their cars. That was clearly outlined to the Garda, yet the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, has banned the protest on public health grounds.

Boyd-Barrett called on the acting Justice Minister to “find out what on earth Drew Harris thought he was doing in using public health as an excuse to ban a legitimate protest by taxi drivers.”

Continuing in the same vein, Deputy Mattie McGrath slammed what he called a “totalitarian” ban on protests.

“I wish to speak on the same issue,” he said.

“I have been contacted by taxi drivers from Tipperary who planned to come to Dublin in their cars tomorrow….Are we living in a totally totalitarian state whereby we cannot protest safely in cars? This is unbelievable.

“We saw what happened in County Longford at the weekend in a church. It is disgraceful. Are we going back to the time of Hitler and the Nazis? What the hell is going on here?

“We must pull up Drew Harris, the Garda Síochána boss man. I do not like these antics. I support An Garda Síochána always but this is driving people away from supporting the Garda. We need to have a debate on it here.”

In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin demanded that Deputy McGrath withdraw his remarks.
“I ask Deputy Mattie McGrath to withdraw the remarks he made – he should withdraw them – when he referred to Nazism and Hitler,” he said.

“It is my opinion,” shot back Deputy McGrath.

“That reference should be withdrawn, irrespective of to whom it applies, given the appalling atrocities that Nazis committed and that Hitler committed,” said the Taoiseach.

“It should not be tolerated because we are the one country that has been a beacon against fascism since the foundation of the State…The Deputy should withdraw those remarks. They are not good enough.”

Notably, the Taoiseach has used the label of fascism to label his political opponents in the past, previously referring to “those who restrict the free movement of others” as “fascists”.

“I pray you spare me the lecture – I will not withdraw the remarks,” replied McGrath.

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