Taoiseach slaps down Justice Minister on garda photo ban at protests

Taoiseach slaps down Justice Minister on garda photo ban at protests
The scene of last week's eviction on North Frederick Street.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has ruled out banning the right for people to take photographs and videos of gardai in a high-profile slap down to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Mr Varadkar insisted today he has no plans to introduce the controversial measure, just 24 hours after Mr Flanagan had suggested the move may take place to protect officers from online abuse.

During the first Leader's Questions debate of the new Dáil term, Mr Varadkar was asked by Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett if he will condemn the garda response to the North Frederick Street occupation protest of an empty property that could be used to house people.

Hitting out at the situation, Mr Boyd Barrett said the "violence of hooded gardaí and security men" was unacceptable and needs to be prevented in the future.

Mr Boyd Barrett also called on Mr Varadkar to reject comments by Mr Flanagan on RTE Radio's Today With Sean O'Rourke programme on Monday, where the Justice Minister said photographing and videoing gardaí may have to be banned.

And, in a clear criticism of his own Cabinet colleague, Mr Varadkar agreed, saying he wants to confirm "the Government has no such plans" to introduce any ban and wants to "make this clear to people involved".

The decision to publicly reject Mr Flanagan's initial comment is likely to be seen as a high-profile criticism of the Justice Minister and his public handling of the case on Monday.

In the immediate aftermath of his RTE Radio comments on Monday, Mr Flanagan said while he believes in transparency and guarantees over gardaí wearing video cameras to ensure they conduct themselves appropriately, he would be prepared to examine plans to introduce a ban on photographing and videoing them during their work.

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