Four arrested as eggs thrown at Tony Blair

Activists clashed with Irish police as they tried to push down a security barrier outside the bookshop

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Four men have been arrested after eggs, bottles and shoes were thrown at the former prime minister Tony Blair as he attended a book signing in Dublin.

It happened at Easons in O'Connell Street on Saturday as Mr Blair arrived to sign copies of his autobiography, A Journey. The missiles, thrown by anti-war protesters, did not hit Mr Blair.

Protesters clashed with Irish police at a security barrier at the bookshop.

The arrested men have been charged with public order offences.

The men - two aged in their late teens and two in their 30s - are due in court later this month.

About 200 protesters demonstrated at Mr Blair's role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on one side of the street.

Analysis

Few places in the world can have witnessed such a large security operation for a mere book-signing.

The main street in Dublin city centre was closed for four hours and a ring of steel erected around Easons bookshop to accommodate Tony Blair and his fountain pen.

Most Dubliners looked on in disbelief.

Many wondered about the security bill, at a time when Ireland's crippled economy needs every euro it can get.

The Blair supporters looking for a signed book were less vocal than the demonstrators - but they easily outnumbered them.

The former British prime minister won the popularity contest. But it came at a price.

On the other side, more than 300 people gathered to get a copy of his book signed.

It was Mr Blair's first book-signing since the publication of his autobiography.

BBC Northern Ireland reporter Julian O'Neill said one of the activists had managed to get into the book shop.

"We talked to one person who managed to get in the book shop to get her book signed and as Mr Blair was signing her copy she said she wanted to make a citizen's arrest for war crimes," he said.

"She said Mr Blair looked a little taken aback but before she knew it she was surrounded by four security personnel who ushered her into the stairwell."

There was a large police presence in Dublin and O'Connell Street was closed to traffic.

Among those who turned out to see Mr Blair was Emily Lynch, from Termonfeckin, County Louth, who praised him for playing a huge part in Irish history.

"He helped make a very important moment in Ireland," she said.

'On our side'

"I remember him coming out and giving a speech on the steps in Belfast in 1998.

"He is the only prime minister Irish people can relate to and feel he's on our side, before that there had been nothing like that."

Groups represented at the demonstration included the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Coalition and the 32-County Sovereignty Movement.

Richard Boyd-Barrett, of the Irish Anti-War Movement, accused Mr Blair of making "blood money" from the memoirs.

Mr Blair has said he would hand over the reported £4m advance payment for the book plus all royalties to the Royal British Legion.

His memoirs detail his accounts of life in Downing Street, the Iraq war, the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America and Princess Diana's death.

He also wrote about concerns over the amount he was drinking and of his rift with his successor Gordon Brown.

'Stretched the truth'

One of the chapters also deals with his efforts to secure peace in Northern Ireland and his relationships with the key political players.

He admitted that he often stretched the truth past breaking point to get agreement during the peace process and he admits that he took horrendous chances with the political parties.

His book, A Journey, has already become Waterstone's fastest-selling autobiography ever and shot to the top of Amazon's best-seller list.

Easons said on Saturday that there had been an "unprecedented demand" for Mr Blair's autobiography.

Managing director Conor Whelan said: "We have had a huge customer demand for Tony Blair's book.

"We hold these events in response to our customer demands and they turned out this morning in very large numbers to meet Mr Blair."

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