GARDAÍ are drawing up a detailed security plan for a book signing by former British prime minster Tony Blair in Dublin on Saturday.
Up to 300 protesters from a range of groups – including a militant republican political party – are expected to gather for the signing at Eason’s bookstore on O’Connell Street.
The signing presents gardaí with a difficult security operation on what is the country’s busiest street on a Saturday morning. Eason’s location, on the corner of O’Connell Street and Middle Abbey Street, is a major intersection for public transport: bus, Luas and general traffic.
One of the protest groups, the Peace & Neutrality Alliance, has said they wanted to carry out a citizen’s arrest on Mr Blair for alleged war crimes. Other groups include the Socialist Workers Party, Éirígí (a republican socialist political party), the Irish Anti-War Movement and the Workers Party.
The signing poses particular security difficulties for gardaí and security staff as some protesters may pose as fans and may engage in some sort of demonstration once inside the book store, possibly when they come face to face with Mr Blair.
“Security is going to be tight, definitely,” said a Garda source. “The location, a very busy area, on a Saturday morning, doesn’t make it easy to cordon off areas, particularly trying to put distance between protesters and the queues of people.”
Eason’s have already issued a list of preconditions for anyone intending to queue for the book signing. These include requiring customers to leave all bags, purses, cameras and phones in a holding area before entry.
The Garda Special Detective Unit (SDU) is responsible for Garda security once Mr Blair arrives tomorrow. He is expected to appear on the Late Late Show tomorrow night and is understood to be staying in the Shelbourne. They will provide “close quarter” security for Mr Blair. Mr Blair also has his own security officers from the Met police. They are entitled to carry their own weapons with the permission of the Garda.
The Garda North Central Division will deploy a significant uniformed presence outside Eason’s. Sources said gardaí will be keeping a “close eye” on agitators, particularly known members of Éirígí.
Garda public order units will be on standby.
Mr Blair is signing copies of his autobiography, A Journey, which went on sale yesterday. There are unconfirmed reports he may travel to Galway after the signing.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved