A mob comprised of “far-right, anti-vaccination and hardline Catholic activists” descended on the property to pollute the Varadkar home with its unsolicited noise, some of which was hateful abuse aimed at sullying Varadkar's right to live his life as a gay man.
The protest group, which calls itself We the Sovereign People, were behind the demonstration. One of the far-right protesters regularly posts videos online spouting conspiracy theories and has previously targeted Jewish people online. Videos posted to social media show around 25 protesters, some with placards bearing anti-vaccine messages, and another in which homophobic insults can be heard.
The group had, a week earlier on two separate occasions, gathered outside the home of Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and are said to be planning protests outside the surgeries of GPs over the latter's endorsement of vaccination for Covid-19.
On top of this, Varadkar had earlier been the recipient of death threats which were reported as having been taken “extremely seriously" and which at the time led to round the clock Garda protection.
I have some idea of what it is like to have the peace of my home disturbed by a mob intent on intimidation. I was not at home on either occasion when the mob arrived, led by a local Sinn Fein personality who later became a councillor for the party. We who lived there were not drug dealers or engaged in anti-social behaviour like house breaking or car theft. The ire of the mob was sparked by myself and a fellow former blanketman having spoken out against a Provisional IRA killing of a local republican: Joe O’Connor’s crime was to have belonged to a different IRA from the one the mob supported. On the second occasion, unfortunately, my heavily pregnant wife stood in the garden facing the mob. I, ironically, was in Cookstown at a conference on free speech, while those gathering outside my home were virulently opposed to any such thing. A neighbour joined my wife and asked the protestors to disperse and desist from harassing a pregnant woman. As unnerving as it was for me, it was much more arduous for my wife who later wrote about her experience:
It first began in earnest in the wake of the IRA’s murder of Joe O’Connor, where I was subjected to a picket of my home, new in a foreign country with no family and few friends, six months pregnant. I had been a union organizer and was no stranger to pickets, although picketing a home in the dark of night was unusual ... A monster had taken over my life. I suffered from severe depression and exhibited all the hallmarks of PTSD ... For speaking out against Sinn Fein, I have been traumatized. Vilified, intimidated, and threatened, I have lived in fear and under surveillance.
When the home of Simon Harris was mobbed by people from the opposite end of the political spectrum to those outside the Varadkar residence, the then Health Minister described it as "intimidation and thuggery. It felt like a violation, it was a violation." So, I instinctively empathise with Leo Varadkar in the face of the violation he endured. His partner too, who like my wife, cannot carry on as normal once the mob seeks to stigmatise the family home.
For these reasons it is welcome that Sinn Fein has jettisoned its previous practice of mobilising home-intimidation against its critics. My local MP at the time our home was mobbed, Gerry Adams, said absolutely nothing against the killers or the people assembled at my home, instead maliciously and falsely labeling myself and Tommy Gorman "fellow-travellers of the Real IRA." Mary Lou McDonald, in a departure from the stance of her predecessor, was unambiguous in her criticism of the gang at the Varadkar home, while her party and Dail colleague Martin Kenny said “intimidating protests outside homes are just not acceptable and are something we all need to stand up against."
Let's hope, borrowing from the lyrics of an old Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes number, this time it's for real.
⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.