AS MANY as 60 gardaí were assigned to protect former British prime minster Tony Blair on his controversial trip to Dublin last weekend to promote his book.
A team of detectives from the Special Detective Unit (SDU) were assigned to shadow Blair and protect him against any potential threats during his publicity book tour around Dublin. This included an interview on the Late Late Show and a book signing at Eason's on O'Connell Street, where gardaí had to protect him from anti-war protestors who pelted eggs and shoes.
A team of up to 10 specialist gardaí from SDU were assigned to work in shifts to ensure the former prime minister was not in danger from any potential threats to his life. Officers were assigned to the Shelboure hotel, on St Stephen's Green, to protect him. Other specialist gardaí followed his every move in marked and unmarked garda cars. Last Friday night, gardaí temporarily closed down a taxi rank near the hotel and placed a string of cones around the hotel's entrance.
On Saturday afternoon, as many as 50 gardaí from Store Street station and other city centre stations were assigned to work on O'Connell Street and inside Eason's bookshop to protect Blair as groups of anti-war protestors staged a protest. Eight gardaí were situated in the book store during his book signing. As well as extensive garda protection, travelling with Blair were up to 12 members of his own private security team.
Shoes and eggs were pelted at Blair on O'Connell Street as he attended his first public signing of his controversial memoir. The missiles did not hit the former prime minister. Around 400 anti-war protestors gathered to protest at Blair's appearance but they were outnumbered by the 500 people who queued for a signed copy.
Four protestors were detained following clashes with gardaí, who were out in force from early morning. Protestor Kate O'Sullivan from Cork attempted to perform a citizen's arrest on the former Labour leader and was immediately confronted by security guards.
Gardaí had to form a line across the glass front of the book store to stop angry demonstrators from getting access to the building.
Eason's declined to comment on whether it paid for the garda protection around its book store on Saturday. It is not unusual for commercial businesses to pay for garda security if necessary. A garda source said: "We are bound to protect citizens in this country so we had no problem doing so where Blair was concerned. We are satisfied we provided an adequate level of protection. He may have been here for commercial purposes but the proceeds of his book are going to charity."