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Micheal Martin slams ‘thuggish behaviour’ of anti-lockdown protesters

Cate McCurry, PA
·5-min read

Ireland’s premier has slammed the “thuggish behaviour” and attacks on Irish police as anti-lockdown protesters stormed the capital’s city centre.

Some 23 people were arrested as hundreds of protesters took part in an anti-lockdown demonstration in Dublin.

Three officers were injured during protest, with one requiring hospital treatment for their injuries.

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Protesters clashed with gardai as demonstrators marched through the city centre and attempted to make their way to St Stephen’s Green park.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he “utterly condemns” the protests.

Mr Martin said demonstrators posed “an unacceptable risk to both the public and gardai”.

In a statement, Mr Martin said: “The large gathering, in the face of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, showed a complete lack of respect to the people who have made huge sacrifices during this pandemic.

“Nor can we tolerate the thuggish behaviour or attacks on gardai, who have the public’s utmost respect as they continue to protect and serve our society in difficult circumstances.

“There can be no justification for the march or the violence that unfolded, and I pay tribute to members of An Garda Siochana who moved quickly to make arrests and restore order.”

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that up to 23 people were arrested following today’s protests in Dublin.

He said that he expects more arrests to be made.

“Very regrettably, people arrived intent on violence. They engaged in attacks on members of An Garda Siochana including the throwing of a firework type device. There will be a full investigation into this,” Mr Harris said.

“There were some 23 arrests that we have made already and those arrests are continuing. This operation is not over as we pursue individuals who engage in protest and illegal activity today.

“They had no reasonable grounds for being there in the first place so we will pursue particularly those who formed a very hard core to deal with.

“You don’t carry a firework to a protest with any other purpose than to engage in violent conduct. We will follow through with an investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Mr Harris said they were aware that momentum had been gathering on social media in the lead-up to Saturday’s protest.

Mr Harris also said that garda officers were “very lucky” they were not seriously injured when a firework was fired directly at them.

“It was directed at that individual and so we are fortunate they didn’t suffer a serious injury, it was only the individual’s quick thinking that saved him,” Mr Harris said.

“We will follow through with a serious crime investigation into that incident.”

Mr Harris said the demonstrators was a collaboration of groups made up of anti-lockdown protesters, anti-vaccine and anti-facemasks.

“This was groups working in concert together, as a mob,” he added.

Deputy premier Leo Varadkar said he was “horrified” to see protesters clash with police.

Mr Varadkar tweeted: “Irish people have spent last year fighting Covid.

“There is no excuse for violence to gardai or anyone.

“This behaviour on Grafton St by a selfish few undermines sacrifices that millions have made in the last 12 months.”

The policing operation involved approximately 125 members of An Garda Siochana including uniformed personnel, plain clothes, public order units, garda mounted unit and garda dog unit.

A number of people who were arrested is to appear before Dublin District Court this evening.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee described the clashes as “completely unacceptable”.

In a statement, Ms McEntee said: “I have spoken to the Garda Commissioner this evening and he has told me the disturbance in Dublin is being brought under control.

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“I know there have been a number of arrests already today and a special court sitting is being arranged to make sure these law-breakers are prosecuted speedily. I understand fixed charge notices have also been issued to a number of people.

“I want to commend the courage and professionalism of the Gardai on duty today in Dublin who responded with great control and discipline in an extremely challenging situation.

“This situation was completely unacceptable and was an insult to so many who have worked so hard in the fight against Covid-19 and to those who have died.

“This mindless thuggery showed a wilful and blatant disregard for the public health rules which are needed to help us all and keep us safe.”

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There was a heavy garda presence in the city centre ahead of the protest, which started at around 2pm.

Hundreds of people, who were not wearing face masks, took part in the demonstration.

Gardai used batons to push protesters away from the park.

Videos of the protest shows a demonstrator point a firework at gardai before it went off, while other missiles and items were thrown at gardai.

Protesters were prevented from gathering in the park after the Office of Public Works closed the gates to the public.