Dublin City Council is to carry out a security review of the Mansion House after Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy expressed concern for her personal safety during a demonstration by anti-immigration protesters outside the building last weekend.
The capital’s first citizen admitted feeling “a bit exposed” in terms of security as a result of the experience, as well as other recent incidents involving public representatives.
The Green Party councillor said she felt the need to ring gardaí last Saturday after a large group of protestors campaigning against the housing of refugees in various parts of the city moved from the Shelbourne Hotel to outside the Lord Mayor’s residence on Dawson Street.
Ms Conroy told a meeting of the council’s protocol meeting on Thursday that the “hate speeches” of the demonstrators had made her feel “very uncomfortable.”
The Lord Mayor said she had also called her husband and daughter, who were not at home at the time, to tell them not to come back to the Mansion House.
“I kind of feel a bit exposed at the moment with all that’s going on,” she remarked.
Ms Conroy said recent experiences had left her feeling “a bit nervy” about her security and said she would welcome any advice and help on the matter.
The Lord Mayor also praised all members of Dublin City Council for standing up for refugees “at such a really volatile time at the moment.”
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The committee’s chairperson, Councillor Deirdre Heney, described the Lord Mayor’s comments on her experience at the weekend as “worrying and certainly disturbing.”
Ms Heney said she admired the Lord Mayor’s leadership and bravery but felt very concerned about Ms Conroy’s safety and that of her family.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the first citizen of our city is feeling uncomfortable in her own home. It is completely out of order that you would be made to feel that way,” said Ms Heney.
Council officials said a full risk assessment of the Mansion House would be conducted as a result of Ms Conroy’s comments.
They pointed out that the local authority had already invested “quite heavily” in additional security measures at the Mansion House when another Green Party councillor, Hazel Chu, held the office of Lord Mayor
The meeting heard that Dublin City Council was also looking at providing training for elected members on their personal safety.
Councillors have also requested that they be provided with a briefing on security similar to that which was recently provided to TDs and senators by an assistant Garda commissioner.
Officials said they hoped that such a briefing could be provided early next month.
The meeting heard that additional security is also being put in place for the regular monthly meeting of Dublin City Council at City Hall in February, while councillors were informed that they could install personal security cameras in their homes and offices which they could claim as part of their vouched expenses.
Ms Heney recalled a council meeting around two years ago, where someone came into the centre of the chamber, where she was fearful for the safety of councillors, particularly for one female member who had a young baby with her.
Her party colleague, Racheal Batten, called for a “zero tolerance” approach to such behaviour.
Independent councillor, Mannix Flynn, said he was concerned about the personal security of councillors when they were away from City Hall in their homes and in public as the situation was becoming “more dangerous.”
He recalled how a bar was thrown through a window of his office a few years ago, while he also had a car vandalised and received threats.
More recently he described being subjected to verbal abuse on a street which he claimed was “just atrocious.”
“If TDs are availing of proper security around their homes and indeed Garda escorts, there is no reason why we as public representatives can’t avail of that, if necessary,” said Mr Flynn.
It was revealed this week that politicians could receive up to €5,000 towards the cost of installing new security systems following a recommendation from the Houses of the Oireachtas. A senior source said a decision from the Department of Public Expenditure is imminent on the request which would see the Oireachtas make a contribution of between €3,000-€5,000 on costs such as CCTV, extra alarms and other security measures.
Labour councillor, Dermot Lacey, said he had been assaulted about three years ago and had found the handling of the matter by gardaí as “absolutely brilliant.”
However, Mr Lacey, said his respect for the courts system declined rapidly over how it dealt with the case.
Green Party councillor, Donna Cooney, expressed concern that councillors had far fewer security protections than TDs and senators.
Ms Cooney admitted she was afraid to answer her phone a lot of the time as she didn’t know what she was going to hear at the other end of the line.
“It’s definitely got an awful lot worse and we seem to be open game and targeted,” Ms Cooney remarked.
Sinn Féin councillor, Micheál MacDonncha, also highlighted how the constituency office of his party’s TD, Dessie Ellis, was the subject of a demonstration by “a gang of very intimidating people” earlier this week.
He said councillors needed to stress that such behaviour would not be allowed to have an impact on their interaction with constituents and members of the public.