On the Dáil’s first day back last Wednesday, a day which saw numerous protests and the presence of a certain cement lorry at the front gate, one inquisitive senior citizen managed to seize an opportunity to explore the inner workings of Leinster House.
Without setting out with the intention to do so, Sean Hayes, proprietor of Siopa Rís on St Mary’s Terrace, Hennessy’s Road, gained access to the country’s centre of power.
Sean had decided to treat himself to a day out in Dublin, taking the train up to the capital. “I rambled around Dublin and I said I’d go to the Dáil for a look,” said Sean. Strolling down to Kildare Street, Sean noticed the activity surrounding Leinster House.
“There were pickets outside and a lot of people around. I went in the gate where the cars go in and a guard stopped me and he said I wasn’t allowed in, so I went off in through the main entrance instead”, he said.
Despite the presence of numerous security staff, and without having made any appointment to visit, Sean still managed to gain access.
“There was an office there and they were all just standing around so I just walked through, straight in and up the steps.”
On his Dáil adventure, Sean saw numerous TDs and was standing in close proximity to many of them, walking straight past Beverley Cooper-Flynn. “She was standing right beside me,” he said.
Making the most of his adventure, Sean decided to further explore the inner workings of the powerful building. “I just looked around, then I saw a stairway and I said I’d go up there.”
The intrepid intruder was even assisted on his adventure, given specific directions for entering the gallery from a security official.
“I was stopped and asked what I was doing. I said I was looking for the gallery and he told me to go out a door and down the passage way and I’d find the entrance there.”
Incredibly, Sean was just metres away from entering the chamber gallery.
“I went down where he told me to go and there were school children all lined up with their teacher, so I went ahead of them. I was going up the steps to the chamber and the man there called me and asked who I was. I said ‘I’m from Waterford and I’m here to see what’s happening!’”
In an embarrassing security blunder, the official outside the chamber had to ring the main entrance to find out how inquisitive Sean managed to get through.
“He gave out to him and told him ‘he came through your gate.’”
Signalling the end of his expedition, Sean was ushered out through the same entrance he initially came in. Stopping to chat to a female Garda outside, he told her: “There are worse fellows in there that should be thrown out instead of me!”
She explained to Sean that an appointment must be made to get in, but he believes anyone could have gained access that day.
“If I had to keep going with the group I would have got into the gallery of the chamber, but when I was asked I told the truth,” he said. “I could have had a weapon, no bother,” he added.
Getting past two checkpoints, Sean’s adventure raises worrying questions about the slack security in the important building. He admitted that his eventful day was quite something, and is somewhat proud of his achievement.
“It’s funny alright,” he said. “I think I’m the first Waterford man to be evicted from the Dáil!”
Perhaps the poor security could be attributed to the mayhem caused by the cement lorry and the distraction of so many protestors on the street.
However, with a congregation of angry people present, it would seem it should have been crucially important to ensure stringent security checks were in place.
Our esteemed elected representatives should perhaps count themselves lucky that it was someone like Sean who breached security and not someone who posed a risk.