Worrying reports in today’s newspapers about opposition politicians combining to prevent Government views being expressed at a public meeting, and about physical and verbal abuse of Government deputies.  One expects no better from Sinn Féin, of course, but it’s disappointing to see Fianna Fáil brazenly displaying their bully-boy DNA so soon after they destroyed the country’s economy and reputation.

A FINE Gael deputy has claimed he was “physically assaulted,” by a woman as he left the stage at a rally in support of retaining services for the elderly at a local hospital.

Peter Fitzpatrick was one of three government deputies who were not allowed address a crowd of 700 who took part in a march on Saturday afternoon in support of retaining long-term care for the elderly at the Cottage Hospital in Drogheda.

The alleged assault took place as they were leaving the stage after being prevented from using the microphone.

The crowd was told by a member of the Save Drogheda Cottage Hospital committee that it had been agreed that any TD who did not sign a pledge would not be allowed the microphone.

….. Both of the opposition TDs in Louth — Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and Fianna Fail’s Seamus Kirk — signed it and addressed the crowd.

All this reminds me of a time long ago (the 1930s to be precise), when Fianna Fáil and assorted other gangsters attempted to prevent Cumann na nGaedheal politicians from speaking at public meetings.  As a result, the Army Comrades Association (better known as the “Blueshirts”) found a role for themselves, and helped keep Ireland safe for democracy.

Maurice Manning, who wrote a book on the Blueshirts, said in 2001 that

“the fundamental question as to why the movement appeared in the first place …..  at least to those involved, was straightforward to protect freedom of speech and to ensure that those opposed to Fianna Fáil and the IRA were able to get a fair hearing and hold their public meetings

…..   The only meetings being broken up were those of Cumann na nGaedheal and the new Centre Party. Not a single Fianna Fáil meeting was disrupted during this entire period.

The disruption was organised. The IRA made it clear that there would be no free speech for traitors, and openly set about putting this into practice. In this they had the backing of many Fianna Fáil supporters.

It is significant, for example, that James Dillon, then deputy leader of the Centre Party, and as hostile then to Cumann na nGaedheal as he was to Fianna Fáil, was emphatic that had it not been for the Blueshirts, freedom of speech would have disappeared in 1933.

So while the fascist-like trappings of the Blueshirts (and the possibly true fascist leanings of a minority of members) have rightly come to be regarded as suspicious, I cannot help but feel that their transient success was simply a reaction to Fianna Fáil’s innately violent and anti-democratic nature.

If things go on like this, with democratically-elected politicians being refused the right to express their views, we may need a 21st century version of the Blueshirts!

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