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Candidate called gardaí to deal with pushy vlogger outside supermarket

June 4th, 2024 4:48 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Candidate called gardaí to deal with pushy vlogger outside supermarket Image
Mary Lou was prevented from driving off by the man who stood in front of her bonnet.

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THE inherent risk in canvassing in the local elections was highlighted by candidate Mary Lou Maguire Leahy who described an ordeal in which gardaí had to be called to deal with a persistent male vlogger who confronted her outside a local supermarket.

Last Thursday, at about 4pm, the Fine Gael candidate said she got out of her car to follow her 15-year-old-son Jack, who has autism, when a tall man stood in front of her equipped with a camera and video and asked her a series of random questions about the police, violence, and the right to protest.

‘I was just going into to do a grocery shop, so I was caught unawares,’ said Mary Lou, who was conscious of the fact that her special needs son could run out in front of cars and that she needed to catch up with him.

The candidate said she had used her badge to park in a disability space specifically because she needed to mind Jack but the man temporarily prevented her from moving.

‘I was stopped with a camera in my face,’ she said. ‘He had two cameras around his neck. One was for recording and one was for pictures. He said he was recording and that he would have me famous, all over social media.

‘I put up my hand and said, “I am not interested in speaking, thank you.” And then he said: “You have just abused me.”

‘I said I need to find my son Jack and when I got inside the shop, staff told me that he had put the camera up to Jack’s face as well, but I didn’t see that,’ she added.

After about 10 minutes in the shop, Mary Lou said she came out to find the man walking around her car.

‘I got Jack into the car, and I got in myself, but the man stood in front of my bonnet, videoing me again and taking pictures with the other camera.

‘He photographed everything around my car,’ said the candidate, who in a lighter moment admitted her tyres were a bit bald, but she has since had them replaced.

‘He photographed the tyres, my insurance disc, my tax disc and my election photographs on the side of my car. Then he came around to my window but I just turned away.

‘I started the car and tried to move, but he wasn’t moving. I reversed the car and he followed me, so I had to call gardaí at that stage because I needed to move.

‘At this stage, a large crowd had gathered around and were watching the scene, which some people later told me ‘wasn’t pretty’.

‘The gardaí were there in two minutes. I spoke to one of them, who took my number, and he said the best thing to do was to go and they would deal with the situation,’ she stated. The same individual appeared while she was canvassing in Bantry the following day, but she said she didn’t feel as intimidated as she was with party colleague Sen Tim Lombard, and a group of party supporters. Mary Lou said she had no clue who the person was, or why he targeted her, but she made the point: ‘With democracy, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but you don’t have to approach people and behave in this manner.

‘There is no need to make a big scene where you are putting the camera in a person’s face, or the face of a child with autism, and standing in front of a person’s car so they can’t move.

‘What is the purpose of that?’ asked the candidate, who said she had no way of knowing if the person was a far-right activist or someone with mental health issues.

The garda press office said it cannot comment on individual complaints but acknowledged that any complaint made to gardaí by any person, including public representatives, is assessed and investigated where appropriate.

‘Specifically, in respect of election campaigns, An Garda Síochána has appointed liaison inspectors in each of our divisions nationwide to help keep all those participating in the forthcoming elections safe while campaigning,’ the garda spokesperson stated.

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