/ 5 September 2010

Tony Blair pelted with eggs and shoes at book signing

Skirmishes broke out between protesters and police at the first public signing for Tony Blair’s memoirs, with shoes and eggs hurled at the former prime minister.

Four men were arrested and charged with public order offences for their part in the protest this morning outside Eason’s bookshop on O’Connell Street in Dublin, Ireland, which involved anti-war demonstrators and the Continuity IRA-aligned Republican Sinn Féin, who oppose the Northern Ireland peace process.

A Garda spokesperson said the four men — two in their late teens and two in their mid-30s — were released from custody and will appear before Dublin district court on various dates later this month.

Gardai had earlier dragged a number of demonstrators off the street and during the fracas a male protester in a wheelchair was knocked to the ground.

Protesters shouted “Whose cops? Blair’s cops!” as they taunted the gardai while Blair remained inside the bookshop. They also shouted: “Hey hey Tony hey, how many kids have you killed today?”

About 400 people were queuing up around the side of the store in Middle Abbey Street to meet Blair. They were verbally abused by a number of demonstrators who denounced them as “west Brits”.

Protester Pixie ni hEicht, from Dublin, criticised both the garda and the hundreds who had turned out for the book signing: “The police are west Brits who are protecting a British terrorist and the people queuing up over there should be ashamed of themselves. All these people buying the book are jackeens and traitors.”

Activist Kate O’Sullivan, from Cork, attempted to make a citizen’s arrest during the signing before Blair’s security team dragged her away.

“I went up to him and I said ‘Mr Blair, I’m here to make a citizen’s arrest for the war crimes that you’ve committed’,” said O’Sullivan (24) a member of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Movement.

Richard Boyd-Barrett, of the Anti-War Movement, accused the former prime minister of making blood money from the Iraq war.

He said: “It really is shameful that somebody can be responsible for the death and destruction that he was responsible for in Iraq and Afghanistan and walk away without any accounting for that and become a very wealthy man off the back of it.”

Following the skirmishes, the city tram service was suspended and shops in the surrounding area were also closed.

Buyers at the signing had to hand over bags and cellphones before entering the store. Undercover detectives mingled with the crowds taking names before Blair arrived at about 10.30am.

A huge security operation was put in place around Dublin’s main thoroughfare in preparation for the Blair visit. The northbound end of O’Connell Street was closed to traffic from early on Saturday morning while the city’s main northside tram link, the Luas line, was closed down.

Plain-clothes detectives were also deployed around O’Connell Street as part of the security operation.

After the signing, Blair was whisked from a side entrance of the store at about 12.40pm.

In his memoirs, A Journey, Blair defends his decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003. The book, which was released earlier this week, has become one of the fastest selling autobiographies on record. His decision to donate the £5-million proceeds from the book to the British Legion has been dismissed as a cynical gesture to curry favour by critics.

‘Blood on his hands’
Before the signing he had already enraged the anti-war movement in Ireland with comments on the Irish TV programme The Late Late Show on Friday night.

During his interview on RTE, Blair warned that Iran was now one of the biggest state sponsors of radical Islam. It must be prevented from developing a nuclear weapon, even if that meant taking military action, he said.

Blair defended the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, despite Saddam Hussein not possessing weapons of mass destruction.

He tried to convince the audience that he acted against the one million people who marched in opposition to the war because he could not take decisions “based on those that shout most”.

Blair, who was greeted by about 50 protesters at the RTE studios, also denied he had “blood on his hands” and said he didn’t believe he was a war criminal.

It is believed he chose Ireland for his only live interview since his memoirs’ publication because he felt he would get a better hearing because of the peace he secured in Northern Ireland.

He said: “When we finally got the whole lot together, literally weeks before I left office in 2007, and there was Martin McGuinness sitting with Ian Paisley, and it was such a strange and extraordinary sight and it was one of the few times in politics I felt really proud actually.” – guardian.co.uk