Gardai on standby as Cowen's brother runs gauntlet on doorsteps
GARDAI were on standby to intervene as the Taoiseach's brother faced the wrath of angry voters while out canvassing.
Barry Cowen, brother of Taoiseach Brian Cowen, was forced to run the gauntlet of an impromptu protest as he canvassed his Offaly heartland.
Gardai kept a "watching brief" as election candidate Barry faced the wrath of more than 20 people who "gave him hell".
The Taoiseach's brother was attempting to go door-to-door selling the Fianna Fail message in Banagher when irate locals started following his every move for more than an hour.
The heated scenes that developed on Saturday were prompted by the recent closure of three fire stations in the county rather than the economic crisis.
A member of the Save Our Stations (SOS) group Tom Sutherland confirmed to the Herald that the politician was made feel "very unwelcome".
"We made known to him that we didn't think he could come into town after doing that to us and demand that people vote for them," said Mr Sutherland.
Asked about the garda presence, Mr Sutherland said: "There were a few guys getting a bit verbal but we took them aside and told them to go home. They weren't part of our group anyway. There was nothing physical."
Mr Cowen told the Herald that there was between 20 and 30 people involved but that he would not be put off by the altercation.
"There was name-calling and so forth but people are entitled to protest and I've no problem with that," he explained.
The Clara man, who is contesting for the seat being vacated by his brother, said that gardai were "close by" and had "a watching brief".
He said that the incident was the first of the campaign trail and he was "actually enjoying the canvass".
"While that was taking place I was going into premises with people that were kind of embarrassed about what was happening. I've received texts and phone calls since from people in Banagher who expressed disappointment at what happened. That's the nature of politics."
A garda spokesman confirmed that they were present in the town between 11am and 1pm last Saturday.
Mr Sutherland said some protesters complained to the officers that they were wasting vital resources following Mr Cowen around.
"There were two squad cars following him around for whatever reason, I don't know, he's not an elected representative yet. They just said 'lads, you've made your point'," he said.