Noisy protesters yesterday took over a courtroom and forced the abandonment of house repossession cases in Limerick.
County registrar Pat Wallace was dealing with more than 170 civil bills for repossession of houses, in a packed courtroom, when the sitting descended into chaos.
Garda reinforcements had to be called in to remove more than 150 people from the building.
The trouble began when one man approached Mr Wallace on the bench, waving a sheet of paper. As he continued to harangue Mr Wallace, a number of gardaí removed him. Others in the public gallery began to shout abuse at the gardaí.
Groups walked up to where solicitors for lending institutions were seated and began to hurl abuse.
Within minutes, a mob of more than 100 had taken over the courtroom, and Mr Wallace rose and left.
As gardaí tried to calm the situation, the intensity of the abuse worsened and insults were shouted at gardaí.
Solicitor Ger O’Neill, who represented a number of people at threat of losing their homes, said: “The protest here today has gone too far. Protest is one thing, but this was intimidation and harassment of the County Registrar and his staff. It shows the amount of upset and disillusionment and worry that is making people who otherwise would be sensible, decent citizens, act in a completely irrational manner.
“People feel helpless and lost and don’t feel they have any other way of expressing their fears. With thousands of cases pending, I can only see the situation getting worse. Mr Wallace deals with cases here in Limerick in a very compassionate manner and gives people every chance.”
One of the men who joined in the courtroom protest said he had travelled from Co Mayo with a group of others.
The protest took a bizarre turn when one man stood up, called for silence, and said he was now the acting judge. He shouted, amid huge cheers: “All cases dismissed.”
After an hour, when extra gardaí arrived, the courtroom was cleared and the protest group marched through the city centre, carrying a coffin.
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