herald

Thursday 29 September 2016

President Michael D Higgins welcomed back to Finglas after heckling incident to open garden project

community

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina pictured with Leon Kelly, Supervisor, TAP at the opening of the garden at Finglas yesterday.
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina pictured with Leon Kelly, Supervisor, TAP at the opening of the garden at Finglas yesterday.

President Michael D Higgins was welcomed with open arms on his return to Finglas yesterday following an embarrassing heckling incident there by anti-water charge protesters earlier this year.

Mr Higgins, along with his wife Sabina, attended the official opening of the Greenview Community Garden.

He was specifically invited by the Tolka Area Partnership who wanted to apologise on behalf of the small group of troublemakers who shouted abuse, including the personally insulting "you little midget parasite".

Mr Higgins described the garden as a "beautiful thing" that was there for the local community to enjoy.

"What people have to realise is that they do not have to own the land to be able to enjoy it. This garden is the community's land," he said.

"It is in times when we are suffering economically that it is important to have our libraries, our parks and our theatres."

Among the groups involved in the project were the Cool-mine Therapeutic Community who help with drugs and alcohol rehabilitation.

The organisation's chairman, Alan Connolly, told how its clients' involvement in such projects "makes a significant improvement in their rehabilitation".

There was a large garda presence at yesterday's event, with around 20 officers as well as members of the public order unit.

Security was conspicuous after the incident in January when Mr Higgins was heckled by anti- water charge protesters as he attended an event at Colaiste Eoin in Finglas.

In a video of the incident that was posted online, comments including "you little midget parasite", "f***ing scumbag" and "you traitor" are clearly heard.

Mr Higgins was labelled a "midget parasite" by protester Derek Byrne.

Speaking to the Herald after the incident, Byrne said the remarks had been made in "the heat of the moment" and he apologised for the "midget" reference.

However, he stood by his use of the word "parasite", saying he refused to apologise to a member of the political class who had "gone and condemned the people of this country to a lifetime of austerity".

Members of the Finglas Village Renewal Partnership (FVR) subsequently invited Mr Higgins to return.

The FVR also apologised "unreservedly for the actions of a small group of troublemakers".

Spokesperson Sean Mooney said the community had been left "disgusted by some of the behaviour".

Mr Mooney said the comments made in January did not represent those of locals.

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