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Arrest at Rabbitte lunch

Sunday Times

A man was arrested in Dublin on Friday (24th August 2012) following a dispute in a hotel involving Pat Rabbitte, the Labour party minister for communications.

Rabbitte was having lunch in Buswells hotel, opposite Leinster House, with Peter Stewart, a former director of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), when a middle-aged man approached his table. "This man is selling off our oil and gas while Irish people have been evicted," the man shouted at Rabbitte.

During the encounter, which was recorded on mobile phones by a number of people present, the minister continued to eat his lunch while Stewart attempted to intercede with the interloper.

At one point, Rabbitte did challenge the man after he shouted: "Joan Burton said you cannot get the children's allowance if you don't vaccinate your children."

"When did she say that?" Rabbitte demanded.

In the recorded clips, someone off-camera shouts: "Are the taxpayers paying for your lunch? Is it expenses?" The hecklers were part of a group that had earlier been protesting outside nearby Savills estate agent against the sale of a bank-repossessed farm in Kildare.

The protest was organised by a group styling itself People for Economic Justice.

The man who led the protest inside the hotel spent almost two minutes at Rabbitte's table. At one stage he shouted at the minister: "There are four suicides a day in this country. Do you understand that? We deserve an answer."

By the time two uniformed gardai responded to a call from hotel management, the man responsible for the disturbance had left.

John Rogers, a 28-year-old who had attended the earlier protest, was arrested and taken to Pearse Street garda station. Despite a phone call from Stewart telling gardai they had arrested the wrong man, Rogers is due to appear in court on September 19 charged with resisting arrest. Film footage shows gardai, one with his arm around Rogers's neck, wrestling him to the bar-room floor and handcuffing him behind his back.

There were cries of "Read him his rights" and "Is this what democracy looks like?"

Raymond Whitehead, the founder of Direct Democracy Now, who was also in the hotel, said: "It was very distressing to watch. Pat Rabbitte did nothing to alleviate the chap's obvious distress by interjecting."

Rogers, who is facing separate charges related to the Occupy Dame Street protest which gardai disbanded last March, was the first person to approach Rabbitte in Buswells. He handed the minister a leaflet about oil and gas rights.

"He came over and said: 'Hello, Pat. Can I give you this? You might get a chance to read it afterwards'."

"He was absolutely polite to the minister, no question," said Stewart, an accountant who resigned as a non-executive director of Nama last October.

"I phoned the gardai and told them he was not the man disturbing the peace or disturbing the minister."

After Rogers was taken away, a number of people approached Rabbitte's table. "They arrested the wrong man. You should be ashamed of yourself," one woman told him. "Pat Rabbitte stands idly by," a man said.

Rogers disagreed. "I wouldn't have expected him to do something. He's the minister for communications, not justice. He's on his holidays. He was sitting there probably very angry at the conduct of the gardai."

A spokesman for Rabbitte said: "The minister has no comment to make on the matter. He was having a private lunch. It concluded and he left."


Posted Date: 
27 August 2012