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‘This is Kevin Vickers. Now he’s tackling our protesters in Ireland’

A historian who was sitting behind Kevin Vickers when the ambassador to Ireland tackled a protester at a ceremony in Dublin describes how events unfolded


 
Canadian Ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers, right, wrestles with a protester during a State ceremony to remember the British soldiers who died during the Easter Rising at Grangegorman Military Cemetery, Dublin Thursday May 26, 2016. Vickers helped subdue a demonstrator who began chanting “insult” at the service commemorating more than 100 British soldiers killed trying to suppress the Easter Rising a century ago. (Brian Lawless/AP)

(Brian Lawless/AP)

On Thursday afternoon Kevin Vickers, Canada’s ambassador to Ireland, was attending a ceremony at Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin when a protester interrupted the proceedings. Vickers, the former Canadian sergeant-at-arms who killed Michael Zehaf-Bibeau after a firefight inside Parliament in 2014, tackled the protester, and video of the confrontation has since gone viral. 

Neil Richardson, an Irish military historian, was at the event and sitting just behind Vickers. Here he explains what the ceremony was for and describes how events unfolded, as told to Maclean’s reporter Aaron Hutchins.

In Irish history, 100 years ago this year, we had the Easter Rising, which was a revolt in Ireland by armed rebels fighting for Irish independence from Great Britain. There have been a lot of commemorations in the past few weeks for the rebels, whose insurrection went on to create the modern Irish state. This particular event was to commemorate the British soldiers who died in the event.

I’m a military historian who’s written a few books about the Irish involvement in the World Wars—most recently, a book about the Irish soldiers who were serving in the British army during the Easter Rising in 1916. I was invited [to the event] as I had written a book about quite a few of the men being commemorated.

It was seen as a contentious ceremony because it is essentially commemorating the other side of the revolt from 100 years ago. The interesting quirk of history is that an awful lot of the British army soldiers at the time were Irishmen who had enlisted in the army to fight in the First World War. I think 99 per cent of the Irish population has moved on and there is a maturity about commemorating both sides of that event from 100 years ago, but there would be an element in Irish society that would view it as a commemoration of the enemy forces, if you want to phrase it that way.

It was just at the start of the ceremony, the Irish army officer was giving the opening address. There were only five rows of chairs. I was in the fourth row and this chap jumps up from two rows in front of where I was sitting, jumped out into a central aisle, opened his shirt to expose a T-shirt with a political slogan and started cursing, and shouting “This is a disgrace.” I think everyone had this momentary [thought]: “Oh, who is this interrupting the ceremony?”

As [the protester] moved to the central area, he would have moved past Irish Army officers and British army officers who were sitting in the congregation observing. All of a sudden, this gentleman in a suit jumps up from the front row and started tackling him.

They fought in front of the rows of chairs and the protester got free and ran to the side of the congregation and the Canadian ambassador chased him. That’s where the guy was apprehended by Irish police.

I don’t think many people were even aware it was the Canadian ambassador. I had no idea who it was. One or two people were wondering, is it a member of the Irish police in plain clothes? Is it the minister’s security detail?

The Canadian ambassador just brushed himself off, returned to his seat, and the ceremony continued. Very solemn, very dignified. There was no more trouble. Given what the event was commemorating, I’m surprised there weren’t more protesters.

Anglo-Irish relations have come on tremendously well since 1916 and there were representatives from the Irish-Anglo forces and the British armed forces. The British ambassador laid a wreath alongside the minister for foreign affairs and trade. It was a holistic ceremony.

We were all invited to the Irish army barracks nearby for refreshments and the word started to spread that the gentleman who tackled the protester was Canadian ambassador Kevin Vickers, famous for the events in Canada. It didn’t overshadow the event, but it was the talk among the people.

What was most notable was how quickly he responded. The attitude is ‘This is Kevin Vickers, and now he’s tackling our protesters here in Ireland.” The folk hero thing might be spreading.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


 

‘This is Kevin Vickers. Now he’s tackling our protesters in Ireland’

  1. I know I may get a little flak for this, but I think Mr. Vickers should have immediately been treated for PTSD for the involvement in a shout out, instead of being treated to an ambassador appointment in any country, not alone Ireland. This appointment was similar to the Duffy appointment, used as a political puppet in order to bulk up the numbers for Harper.

    • Bother way, I said the same thing on the day this happened in Ottawa on this site. I also noted that all involved should have been treated for PTSD.

  2. Unfortunately, because of comments like this, it seems time for MacLeans to remove the ability of people to be anonymous.
    B. McCann

  3. as the individual who is the protestor at the event I would like to note a couple of inaccuraries in the article – I did not use any curse words – as is evidenced from all of the video footage of the event – 99% of the population have moved on ? if that is the case why was there such a heavily policed exclusion zone imposed and why were the public not welcome at the event ? surely this contradicts your subjective view
    Does the author feel that Mr Vickers is more competent than the Gardai to control the event ?
    The ambassadors actions namely assaulting me while I was engaged in non threatening protest is questionable and was an over reaction though it did I feel backfire on him as it has given my protest more international and national coverage than I could have hoped for so from the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association and the Justice for the Craigavon 2 Campaign I would like to thank the ambassador for providing us with so much publicity.
    As for myself I had every right to be there given I have a relative buried in Grangegorman and I know for a fact that my other relative who fought in 1916 would have been proud that I stood up against a state that ignores what the 1916 Rising sought to achieve, a state controlled by a political party that surrendered part of this country for personal power and money and proceeded to murder republicans on behalf of the British Government.
    I presume you will trot out the same sort of pro British anti 1916 rebellion rhethoric as we approach the centenary of the war of independence and the involvement of such honourable British Army personnel as the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries – the Waffen SS wing of the British Army

  4. Mr. Vickers is going to run out of dumb luck. One day he will pick the wrong person to tackle, that person will be loaded for bear. Mr. Vickers needs to settle down and let the appropriate people take care of business.

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