By Liz HearnshawTHE founder of a campaign group fighting for equal parenting rights has applauded activists who pelted the Prime Minister with flour-filled condoms during Question Time in the House of Commons.
By Liz Hearnshaw
THE founder of a campaign group fighting for equal parenting rights has applauded activists who pelted the Prime Minister with flour-filled condoms during Question Time in the House of Commons.
Matt O'Connor, who lives in Cavendish, near Sudbury, has also warned more high-profile protests, staged by his Fathers 4 Justice group, will continue in the run-up to Father's Day next month.
Speaking last night following the demonstration in Parliament staged by two members of the group, the 37-year-old described it as a "significant escalation of our campaign."
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Mr O'Connor, who experienced problems seeing his children following the break-up of a relationship, said: "This is an organisation which is not going to go away and providing the members stick to non-violent action, I support it.
"The protest has raised security concerns within the Commons. If an amateur group of dads can breach it in this way, then I do not have a lot of confidence in the security services.
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"You do not have to be a rocket scientist to work out what potentially could have happened."
He added: "We are prepared to receive some flak as a result of this, but our overriding objective remains to get a change in the law to give children the right to see both parents.
"There is a general anger amongst the group as all our members have been to see their MPs, who have done absolutely nothing. We feel this Labour Government has failed children, fathers and – most importantly – families."
The group's latest protest was staged yesterday afternoon as Prime Minister Tony Blair answered Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons chamber.
Father-of-two Ron Davies, 44, from Worthing, Sussex, hurled two condoms – filled with flour that had been dyed purple – from the public gallery as a second activist held up a poster.
Michael Martin, the Commons Speaker, immediately suspended the sitting halfway through Mr Blair's weekly question and answer session.
The incident, which left the Prime Minister's suit splattered with the flour, was a huge embarrassment for Parliament's security staff, with Home Secretary David Blunkett promising "even greater restrictions" would be placed in public access to the Commons as a result.
A huge security screen was recently installed in the public gallery to prevent such incidents, but it only covers the front three rows reserved for peers and their guests.
The protesters had been signed in as guests by Labour's Baroness Golding, who later apologised for her actions.
MPs were quick to criticise the activists, with Conservative frontbencher, Alan Duncan, saying: "The world is now such that however valid their protest, this is not excusable. Nothing less than a prison sentence is sufficient."
Shadow home secretary, David Davies, added: "This incident is profoundly disturbing in the current security situation. It is clear that there are serious security concerns which have still not been addressed.
"This is just another example of where security has failed and incompetence has prevailed.
"The glass screen in the House of Commons was meant to prevent attacks like this. Questions must be asked about how we prevent such an attack happening again.
"We believe the chamber should have been sealed until the substance was identified, otherwise other staff within the House of Commons are potentially put at risk unnecessarily."
The powder not only hit Mr Blair, but also appeared to splatter around him and his colleagues on the front bench, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Chancellor Gordon Brown.
Police officers in nuclear, chemical and biological protection suits were drafted in to investigate the situation before the Commons resumed.
But Mr O'Connor insisted members of Fathers 4 Justice had been left with no other option, but to take action.
"We are in a situation where we can see everybody else's kids, but not our own, and have been left with no choice," he said.
"It is now four weeks until Father's Day, which is an incredibly difficult time for dads, but I am pleased we have an outlet to engage in peaceful, non-violent protest.
"We have moved from a situation where guys were jumping off bridges to one where they are climbing them instead."
He added: "Some of the things these fathers have been going through are heartbreaking. We must fight for our children, as the human cost can be enormous.
"I have heard of situations were parents and grandparents have died before seeing their children and grandchildren and it is like watching a slow-motion car crash. There is a huge clamour for change and this is a tragic situation."