Joan Burton's car blocked by protesters

Water protesters clash with Gardai at a public meeting on Marriage Equality which Tainaiste Joan Burton was attending at the Regency Hotel, Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron
Water protesters clash with Gardai at a public meeting on Marriage Equality which Tainaiste Joan Burton was attending at the Regency Hotel, Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron

A group of up to 20 anti-water charge protesters heckled and jeered Tanaiste Joan Burton and blockaded her car as she left a function in Dublin yesterday evening.

There was a strong Garda presence as Ms Burton, who remained calm throughout the demonstration, smiled as she was led to her ministerial car​.

​The vehicle was​ flanked by members of An Garda Siochana.

The Labour leader was leaving the Regency Hotel in north Dublin shortly after 9.30pm, having attended a meeting of the Marriage Equality Referendum Campaign.

Up to three members of the protest group lay in front of her vehicle as it attempted to leave the area.

One man sat on the bonnet of a moving Garda car as it attempted to leave the hotel car park.

Gardai were forced to physically restrain a number of protesters, who had begun to gather outside the hotel shortly after 8pm.

They had earlier attended the meeting but walked out mid-way through.

Gardai had maintained a constant presence throughout the discussion on the forthcoming same sex marriage referendum.

Some protesters managed to bang loudly on the bonnet of ​Deputy Burton's state car, shouting "shame on you" and "no way, we won't pay."

As the ​vehicle​ sped away, a number of Gardai were ​then ​subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse from some members of the group.

Earlier at the meeting the Tanaiste said the voices of parents, grand-parents, brothers, and sisters, of gays and lesbians, should be carefully listened to in the run-in to the marriage referendum.

She made an impassioned plea for a ‘yes’ vote said anybody contemplating voting ‘no’ should note  what these Irish citizens have to say.

‘’It is those voices that have been the most electrifying and energising feature of the debate over the past few weeks,’’ she said.

Society will be stronger when same sex couples are given equal rights to participate in an institution that rewards mutual commitment, she added.

‘’I can understand why bishops and others value marriage for the social benefits it offers.

‘’That is why I celebrate the wish of so many gay and lesbian couples to get involved, and embrace both the rights and responsibilities that marriage brings.

‘’I genuinely cannot understand why people of a conservative outlook are nervous of this amendment.

'This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the very values conservatives prize most such as commitment, mutual care and loyalty,’’ she said.

The Labour Party leader stressed that the amendment is an opportunity to entrench equality.

‘’I do hope the people of Ireland will take that opportunity and support the amendment to give gay and lesbian couples the chance to wed, to be married, and to have their relationship celebrated and valued by the State in the same way as everyone else

 She said this is what the government is doing by inserting the proposed  amendment into the Constitution.

‘’We are removing nothing, simply extending the section on marriage to state: ‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex’.

"The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to take a full part in this most vital of social institutions is surely something that should make conservative rejoice, all the more so when they read or hear the heartfelt pleas of parents and grandparents to vote ‘yes’.

''Equality before the law is a bedrock principle in our political culture,'' she said.

She also warned that access to marriage is basic to the recognition of individuals as equals in our society.

''Any status that falls short of that is inferior and unjust.''

''The right to marry helps every citizen to define his or her place in the community.''

''Without it, there can be no true equality under the law.''

Irish Independent