Leo Varadkar accuses Sinn Féin of 'balaclava slip'

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Media captionDing dong in the Dáil

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has told a Sinn Féin representative that "it doesn't take long for your balaclava to slip" during angry scenes in the Dáil (Irish parliament).

Mr Varadkar was addressing comments by Pearse Doherty regarding the eviction of a Roscommon family on Sunday.

The eviction at the hands of a bank happened in Falsk, near Strokestown.

Security personnel on the site were later attacked by a masked gang.

Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption The farm and house was sealed off as a crime scene

Mr Doherty condemned what he called an "ordeal of thuggery" carried out by a group of men representing a financial institution.

The incident happened at about 05:30 local time on Sunday at the recently-repossessed house.

A large number of men in high-visibility jackets arrived and attacked the security guards with baseball bats.

Four vehicles were also burned out and a guard dog was killed.

Hospital treatment

Three of the eight people who were injured required hospital treatment.

Mr Doherty said it was shocking that those who carried out evictions were not regulated under Ireland's Private Security Act.

He said that when people "cut down locks, break down doors, take some out by their ears, kick somebody on the ground, and push them out of their own home and property while the gardaí (Irish police) watch on is not acceptable".

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar agreed that there was a need for better regulation, but he took exception to what he saw as one-sided condemnation.

Image copyright Oireachtas TV
Image caption Pearse Doherty described "an ordeal of thuggery"

"I'm very concerned that you've had nothing to say about what happened afterwards, 20 or 30 people arriving in a cattle trucks, armed with baseball bats who then injured three or four other people, set cars alight and caused an animal to be shot dead," he said.

The chairman of the Dáil repeatedly rang his bell and called for order as shouting broke out in the chamber.

"When it comes to Sinn Féin and the rule of law and public order and condemning violence it doesn't take very long for your balaclava to slip," Mr Varadkar said.

The taoiseach said that the facts behind this individual case seemed to be about much more than an elderly farm family being evicted from their farm.

He said it involved many years of debts and arrears, VAT fraud and tax evasion.

Mr Varadkar said the eviction order in the Roscommon order was executed following a High Court hearing and the High Court did not issue eviction orders lightly.

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