Taoiseach says he is “very reluctant” to ban protests in public places while committing to ‘safe access zones’.

Leo Varadkar has said he would be “very reluctant” to introduce legislation to ban people from protesting outside the homes of politicians as he feels that doing so would necessitate banning protests in public places and constitute a “slippery slope,” 


Speaking on Virgin Media’s the Tonight Show, Varadkar said that although he thought protesting outside peoples’ homes was “wrong” that making it illegal would entail banning protest in a public place.

“If you start making it illegal for people to protest on a public street, I would be worried that would be a slippery slope towards restricting the right to protest,” he said. 

As a freedom enthusiast myself, I have to say I had a rare moment of ‘well that makes sense’ and a fleeting feeling of hope for the country. 

Needless to say this was short lived as almost in the same breath, Varadkar said that he would be moving forward with banning protests in public places which happen to be in the vicinity of where abortions take place. . 

Actions speak louder than words as they say…..

Referring to a recent protest which was held outside his own home Varadkar said:

“I just think any government that tries to crack down on peoples’ right to protest in a public place, in a public area, I’m just a little bit – despite the fact that I’m one of the targets of it – I’m just a little bit nervous of going down that road,”

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to rework the famous line from George Orwell’s Animal Farm where he wrote, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others,” in a way that fits the Taoiseach’s rather contradictory comments. 

‘All public spaces are public, but some public spaces are more public than others’ perhaps? 

You may be asking yourself how it is possible to recognise the inherent anti democratic nature of banning protests in public while at the same time supporting legislation that literally bans protests in public places, I certainly am. 

As my colleague Gary Kavanagh pointed out, the legislation around so-called ‘safe access zones’ would appear to ban someone from even looking at a building where abortions take place in an unapproved manner.

Section three of the legislation appears to make one’s mere presence in a safe access zone a crime while section four seems to make an offence of  ‘watching and besetting’ in the absence of a court order. 

This would seem to be entirely at odds with notions relating to the democratic right to peaceful assembly which Varadkar says he is “very reluctant” to impinge on. 

The legislation would also ban people peacefully gathering or holding a sign within 100 metres of an abortion facility, and of course doing something as ‘awful’ as offering help to mothers seeking abortion is also off limits. 

So how is it that our Taoiseach can present himself as having the utmost respect for the peoples’ right to protest while at the same time bringing forth legislation that would effectively criminalise looking at a building with unapproved thoughts in your head? 


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