Vickers feared losing 'great gig' after he tackled protester in Ireland
Canadian Ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers, right, wrestles with a protester during a ceremony to remember the British soldiers who died during the Easter Rising at Grangegorman Military Cemetery, Dublin Thursday May 26, 2016. (SWNS)
Published Thursday, August 17, 2017 5:43PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Controversy over Canada's ambassador to Ireland tackling a protester in Dublin in 2016 had him fearing he'd lose his job, and Canadian staff worrying about the consequences for the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
Kevin Vickers leaped into action at a Dublin event marking 100 years since the deaths of British soldiers in the 1916 Easter Rising, taking down an Irish protester who tried to disrupt the ceremony.
As the media furor dragged on, Vickers told a friend he thought he might be recalled to Canada, according to emails released to CTVNews.ca under federal access-to-information laws, which were first reported by the National Post.
"I would not be surprised if my great gig is up. And if so, it has been a hell of a ride, and nothing like going out with a bang," he wrote.
The ambassador was resolute that he'd done the right thing.
"I know if the same thing happened tomorrow I would react the same," he said. "That is a good thing to have though perhaps not for an ambassador and his career."
Canadian officials in Ireland didn't think the incident would make the news there, though Vickers instructed the embassy not to comment if there were any media calls. The decision was backed by the office of then-foreign affairs minister Stephane Dion, the emails show.
"For your info and in case it makes the news here (as unlikely as it seems); we've asked Jackie [Ellis, the embassy's general relations officer] to let us know of any further news including local/other media inquiries," one staffer wrote the afternoon Vickers tackled the protester.
"He did not see any TV cameras and I have not had any media calls as yet," Ellis wrote in the same email chain.
Less than half an hour later, the first staffer noted there was a photo circulating in the Irish media.
'This has political implications'
Embassy staff expressed concern that Vickers was planning a vacation in Canada, where he was to attend the annual Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner with journalists, politicians and other diplomats. Vickers was a guest of CTV chief political commentator Craig Oliver.
"He said he would be walking straight into the storm," an official said Vickers told her.
While he received some congratulatory messages, and said he was thanked verbally by Irish cabinet ministers, justices and senators, his tackle raised questions locally about why the Garda, Ireland's police force, hadn't moved to intercept the protester before Vickers got to him.
"There is increasing links of [Vickers] incident to criticism of Garda -- this has political implications as it will not go down well with Garda, Justice and the Foreign Ministry," Ellis wrote to several colleagues following an op-ed in the Sunday Independent newspaper that referred to the incident as a "major security lapse." The op-ed features a photo of Vickers tackling the man.
Still, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada said the department is "not aware of any diplomatic complaints about Ambassador Vickers."
Last month, an Irish judge offered the protester, Brian Murphy, the chance to avoid a conviction if he donated 900 euros to charity and apologized to the Garda. The judge also suggested he write a letter of apology to Vickers.
The embassy was closely monitoring the story's traction in Ireland, as well as on social media. Some posts wondered if Vickers was armed and why Canada would send "a 'loose cannon' to their country," according to one email.
It also received a number of emails critical about his action.
"Why would you attend a ceremony honouring British soldiers who died in the Irish uprising?" one message said. "The British rule of Ireland was a 300 year disgrace... the British broke every international law and wreaked havoc on the innocent Irish."
(A Canadian soldier died during the rising).
"Piss [Vickers] off back to Canada," wrote another. "If an Irish man wants to protest at English troops getting a ceremonial burial at Irish taxpayers expense he has every right to do so."
The incident drew criticism from some Canadians too.
"You should be recalled and given something more suitable to do, like being a bouncer in an Ottawa strip club," wrote someone from Toronto (all names are redacted).
Vickers was named ambassador to Ireland in January, 2015, shortly after he was involved in taking down the man who stormed Parliament Hill in a terror attack that also saw the murder of a soldier at the National War Memorial.
Ambassadors usually serve about three years.