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Tony Blair Pelted with Eggs and Shoes at Book Signing

Former prime minister attacked by anti-war protesters in Dublin as he promotes memoirs

by Henry MacDonald and agencies

DUBLIN - Violent 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.

Tony Blair's first signing of his memoirs in Dublin descends into violence as anti-war protesters clash with Gardai. (Photograph: Niall Carson/PA) Three men were arrested after they broke through a security barrier at around 10.45am today outside Eason's bookshop on O'Connell Street in Dublin, Ireland.

The demonstrators, ranging from anti-war demonstrators to the Continuity IRA-aligned Republican Sinn Fein, who oppose the Northern Ireland peace process, are now marching to a garda police station in the city centre demanding the release of the three arrested men.

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 left-wing 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."

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 mobile phones 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 this 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, the former prime minister 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.

Before the signing he had already enraged the anti-war movement in Ireland with comments on the Irish TV programme The Late Late Show last 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."

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