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.
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,
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
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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."