Sunday, March 16, 2008

"I wouldn't want a week like that every day"

Quote Mireille this morning.

As I previously reported, eldest son Paddy found himself at the centre of the standoff at Rath Lugh. While very environmentally aware, it's fair to say Paddy wasn't exactly a hardcore protestor on the issue, having only spent a few days at a time there over the last few months with his then girlfriend Lisa, who did feel very strongly about it (and more power to her). Paddy returned there this week purely to support Lisa and act as a liaison between her and the various other parties involved after being nominated by Lisa as someone she would trust. The media seemed to have zoned in on him, so he was all over it the last few days. On Thursday evening he spoke to Matt Cooper at Today FM about the situation, and that night on Primetime he was shown going down the tunnel to interview Lisa on behalf of RTE.

During the Today FM piece, Sean O'Neill of the NRA attempted to trivialise the protest by calling on their parents to intervene. I personally found this both offensive and vaguely ridiculous since Paddy is 23 and Lisa is 26 and both are independent adults long out from under their parents wing, so I sent a text to the show to that effect, and was invited to appear on the show the following evening to make that point.

While I was in the studio with Matt, they got Paddy to call in with an update from the site. I'd been asked how I felt about the thing, was I worried about Paddy, and my response was that I supported their right to protest, I trusted Paddy to look after himself, and he and Lisa were independent adults responsible for and capable of making their own decisions. I also was trying to get across the idea that I felt a happy ending was more likely if the NRA took the concerns of the protestors more seriously rather than treating them as petulant children in need of parental correction. When Paddy rang in, he was in the middle of a very tense situation as Lisa's Dad and uncle had turned up at the site, understandably upset and keen to doing anything they could to get Lisa out. Unfortunately with noone else around they seemed to focus their anger on Paddy (which was understandable but pointless, Paddy had attempted to dissuade Lisa from going in in the first place, and once she was in there, the most constructive thing Paddy could do was to act as a liaison between her and the outside. Had he attempted to pressure her to come out, it would have been counterproductive almost certainly), and Paddy being a very sensitive person took this to heart and in the heat of the moment he blurted out that he'd trade places with Lisa if that would get her out. This blindsided me a little given I'd just spent the last 5 minutes or so repeating that I trusted Paddy not to endanger himself in this way, and I was so flustered I don't even remember what I said after that, but afterwards I rang Paddy and realised the situation and that there was no real danger of him doing this (or being allowed to).

Thankfully the NRA seemed to eventually take the matter more seriously than merely getting the parents on the scene (Lisa was resisting pressure from her family to come out without concessions) as the following day a director from the NRA arrived to start talks. I rang Paddy in the middle of these and he said the proposals would be put to "The Collective" (as the protestors were calling themselves) but it wasn't looking good as the general opinion was it was more or less the same old thing in brand new drag. I reminded Paddy that this wasn't really that strong an issue for him and the most important thing was Lisa's safety, that he was there as a friend to support her, that some concessions were better than none and the reality was that there was no massive public outcry pressuring the NRA to make concessions, and that he should use any influence he had to try and steer things towards agreement between the NRA and the Collective. The weather was also a concern, as it was pissing rain thereby casting further doubts on the viability of the tunnel.

Thankfully common sense prevailed and a ten point agreement was reached with the NRA and Lisa came out safe and sound and in good spirits. I imagine most people would go mental after spending a week in a makeshift tunnel under the ground subject to all kind of psychological harassment but knowing Lisa a little from the times she's stayed in her house, I know she's a very tough cookie with strong principles that she's prepared to take a stand for.

I'd like to thank the NRA for (eventually) handling the situation responsibly, and particularly the local Gardai for keeping the situation under control. Paddy is actually covered in bruises at the moment, not because of the Gardai, but because of Ferrovial personnel who manhandled and roughed up the protestors when they were chained to construction equipment. One man in particular, who Paddy believes is a Spanish director of Ferrovial, attacked Paddy when he was in no position to defend himself, and the Gardai had to intervene. This is unforgiveable behaviour in my view from someone representing a large corporation making a lot of money in our country.

Anyway, it's a big relief that Paddy is now at home with us safe and sound, and I'm proud of the way he conducted himself as a moderate and sensible voice of reason in the middle of a very tense situation.


Jaysus. Glad to hear that the pair of them left the area in one piece. Like you say, I think the right and ability to protest is something that is a very important part of any functional democratic society. The idea that they would ask you guys to step in; clip the kids on the ear; and drag them home kicking and screaming is ridiculous.

Very interesting blog entry if nothing else. Seeya later this week in Citywest.


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