Politicians and campaigners have strongly condemned a protest group for targeting Simon Harris at his family home as the health minister faces ongoing demands to resign over the deepening children’s hospital and nurses strike scandals.
Government TDs, opposition parties and the Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation all hit out at the unprecedented situation after gardaí were called to Mr Harris’ home to clear 20 people protesting outside the property.
Mr Harris, his wife, and three-week-old daughter were inside at the time of the protest by the Fingal Battalion Direct Action and Wicklow Says No groups, which occurred yesterday afternoon between 2pm and 3pm.
However, while gardaí said protesters left the scene “peacefully” and “enquiries will be carried out”, there are fears the incident will be repeated after the group said politicians, judges, and public officials will now be targeted at their homes.
“We’re all aware of the cervical cancer scandal, medical cannabis, thousands of patients on trolleys, the outrageous cost of the children’s hospital and the nurses’ strike,” a female protester said in a video recorded outside Mr Harris’ home.
“Today we launch a campaign to bring it to their doors. It could be your local TD, councillors, judges or anyone who plays a part in bringing austerity, corruption or evictions to the people of Ireland.
“It’s time to bring it to their doors, they’ve brought enough to our doors,” she said.
Politicians have previously been targeted outside Leinster House, with Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin’s constituency office defaced with “baby killer” graffiti during the Eighth Amendment referendum, ex-Progressive Democrat leader Mary Harney soaked in red paint a decade ago, and then-tánaiste Joan Burton embroiled in the water charges Jobstown controversy in 2015.
However, the targeting of a politician’s home is unprecedented, with yesterday’s incident following revelations last month gardaí are investigating online claims female ministers could be physically “evicted” from their homes by protesters.
Yesterday’s protest was strongly condemned by politicians and campaign groups, with Fine Gael TDs’ concern mirrored across the political divide.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said what happened “is completely and utterly unacceptable” as “everyone is entitled to peace and security with their family in their own home”, Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly said “family is off limits”, while Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said targeting someone’s home is unjustified and undermines legitimate protests.
In a statement, the INMO said it wants to “condemn in the strongest possible terms the protests outside Minister Harris’ family home”, while cervical cancer campaigner Stephen Teap wrote on Twitter: “There’s a time and place to share your dissatisfaction with this minister and this was neither. Shame on those people.”
The protest occurred as Mr Harris faces into another week set to be dominated by the surging children’s hospital costs and nurses protests scandals.
Mr Harris yesterday said he will apologise to the Dáil on Tuesday for failing to reveal all details of the hospital costs concerns last September, but will stop short of Fianna Fáil demands to correct the Dáil record — amid ongoing Sinn Féin no confidence motion threats.
The national paediatric hospital development board will release more memos outlining who knew what and when this evening, while Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will tell cabinet tomorrow which projects will have to be cut or delayed to pay for the €100m debt the hospital overruns will cost this year.
Separately, despite ongoing talks, nurses are still planning to hold a three-day strike, starting tomorrow, which could bring the health service to a stand-still.