OTTAWA – Canada’s ambassador to Ireland, best known for his role in shooting dead an armed assailant inside the Parliament buildings in 2014, has once again stepped into an apparent security breach.
Kevin Vickers, the former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, tackled a protester Thursday in Dublin during a ceremony to remember British soldiers killed in the 1916 Easter Rising, which also claimed the lives of some 450 Irish republicans.
A Global Affairs Department spokesman said Vickers “intercepted a protester who ran up to the podium” during the commemoration.
“Shortly after the ceremony began, an individual moved forward and began to shout,” Jennifer Bourke, a spokeswoman for Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, Charles Flanagan, said in an email.
“As the individual sought to disrupt the ceremony, Ambassador Vickers reacted instinctively to prevent the individual’s encroachment and the Gardai (Irish police) removed him from the scene. The ceremony then proceeded as planned.”
Video shows Vickers wrestling a man in a T-shirt and black leather jacket along a walkway while ceremonial guards stand impassively in the background.
The man can be heard shouting, “It’s an insult! This is an insult!”
Police arrested the protester moments later as a grim-faced Vickers strode back towards the official delegation.
The Global Affairs spokesman said Vickers, 59, was not injured in the incident and would not be doing media interviews about the altercation.
Vickers, who served 29 years as an RCMP officer, was among those who responded to the Oct. 22, 2014, assault on Parliament Hill by rifle-wielding Michael Zehaf Bibeau, who died in a hail of bullets — including those fired by the sergeant-at-arms from his pistol at close range.
Vickers received an extended standing ovation during an emotional ceremony when the House of Commons resumed business the following day. He was appointed to the ambassadorial post in January 2015.
In May 2015 Vickers used the occasion of an honorary degree ceremony at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., to describe how he woke up crying at 5:30 a.m. the day after the shooting, calling it “the loneliest moment of my life.”
And he told the students how he prayed for Zehaf Bibeau, who killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, an honorary guard at the National War Memorial, before storming Parliament’s Centre Block where he wounded a security guard.
Vickers, hailed as a hero at the time of the Oct. 22 shooting, was flooded with further laudatory mentions on social media Thursday at news of his protest tackle in Dublin.
“Kevin Vickers is like Canadian Batman,” said one typical commenter. “Canada’s new superhero,” said another.
But a few questioned why a diplomat was taking security into his own hands at an event that was heavily policed.
“Really don’t understand the unabashed cheering of aggressive confrontation as response to peaceful protest,” said one man on Twitter.
And others wondered why Canada’s representative in Ireland even attended a ceremony for British soldiers killed in the 1916 uprising.
Global Affairs said Vickers was representing Canada at the Easter Rising ceremony as a guest of Flanagan.
The Easter Rising, or Easter Rebellion, involved Irish nationalists rebelling against the British occupational government in an effort to create an Irish Republic.
Dublin was the scene of the fiercest fighting, and Britain ended up declaring martial law. A week of fighting left some 450 dead and 2,000 injured.
Fifteen leaders of the republicans were subsequently executed, while more than 3,000 suspected supporters were arrested.
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