DUBLIN: Anti-war protesters hurled shoes and bottles and eggs at Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair as he arrived at the first public signing session to promote his memoirs in the Irish capital Dublin on Saturday.
More than 200 demonstrators, many chanting slogans criticising Blair over the 2003 Iraq war, had gathered for the event.
None of the objects landed near the former premier as protesters surged towards a security barrier separating them from him before being repelled by police.
One woman said she tried to make a citizen’s arrest on Blair once he was inside the bookshop where the event was taking place.
“After I went through airport-like security to get to Mr Blair, I told him I was there to make a citizen’s arrest on him for war crimes committed in Iraq,” said Kate O’Sullivan, an activist from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
“Mr Blair looked down and I was immediately grabbed by five security men and dragged away.”
A police spokesman would not give a precise figure for the number of people who were arrested at the protest but said it was in single figures.
Blair was carrying out the signing to publicise A Journey, his account of his decade in Downing Street from 1997 to 2007. It was released earlier this week.
In the book, he said he “can’t regret” the decision to go to war in Iraq alongside then US president George W Bush but acknowledged that he did not foresee the “nightmare” which was unleashed in the aftermath.
In Dublin, the demonstrators waved placards with slogans such as “Blair lied, millions died” and “Lock him up for genocide” and chanted amid a heavy police presence.
Meanwhile, several hundred people queued at a back entrance to the store in the hope of getting their book signed by Blair.
Killian Kiely, a 21-year-old from south Dublin, was among those who got to meet him.
“I wanted to see him, he is one of the most important leaders of his generation though there is a lot I would disagree with about his policies,” he said.
In an interview aired on Saturday, Blair rejected claims that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan had increased Muslim radicalisation, saying “wicked and backward-looking” radical Islam is the greatest threat to global security.
Blair told the BBC World Service that “the biggest threat in international security is this broader radicalised movement, because I think it is rather similar to revolutionary communism.”
In an earlier interview on Friday, Blair brushed off the opposition he still faces from anti-war campaigners, seven years after the Iraq invasion.
“One of the first things that you learn in politics is that those who shout most don’t deserve necessarily to be listened to most,” he told Irish state television RTE.
“Everyone should be listened to equally, irrespective of the volume of noise.”
He said al Qaeda-linked extremism was “loosely a global ideological movement, but Iran is a state sponsor of it.”
In a fresh sign of continuing opposition, over 2,500 people have joined a group on social networking website Facebook calling for shoppers to move Blair’s book to the crime section in bookshops.
Blair, who reportedly received $7.2 million advance for the book, will donate all proceeds to the Royal British Legion, a charity helping war veterans.
He will hold another book signing in London on Wednesday which anti-war activists are also pledging to target.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2010.