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Five arrested as hundreds turn out to anti-lockdown protest in Cork City

Multiple Garda checkpoints were set up around Cork City.

The scene in Cork City this afternoon
The scene in Cork City this afternoon
Image: Niall O'Connor

Updated Mar 6th 2021, 6:10 PM

A PROTEST RALLY calling for an end to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions took place this afternoon in Cork City. 

Today’s protest followed a large anti-lockdown protest in Dublin city centre last Saturday, which resulted in numerous arrests. 

The Cork event, organised by a number of individuals and the People’s Convention, attracted approximately 450 people.

Former County Councillor Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, secretary of the People’s Convention, described the event as a ‘rally for truth’. Organisers erected a public address system at the junction of Winthrop Street and Patrick’s Street, immediately in front of the Brown Thomas department store.

Ó Cadhla was co-opted onto Cork County Council following the sudden death of a Councillor. He did not retain his seat at the local elections. He was recently before the courts with two other men for defacing road signs in Cork which had Victoria in the name, and made a charitable contribution.

No violence broke out during the protest. A handful of people shouted abusive slogans during the event.

Gardaí confirmed that there were seven arrests during their policing operation, including two men in Cork city, one for a breach of the Health Act 1947 and one for a Public Order offence.

Four arrests, three men and one woman, were made during the day. The arrests happened in Kildare, Kerry and the broader County Cork area. They all involved people who refused to return to their five-kilometre zone.

The Dunnes Stores across from the square area where the speeches were taking place had been boarded up in anticipation of the protest.

The PA system was flanked with signs and a tricolour. A number of speakers spoke about their unhappiness at the lockdowns and their inability to see members of their families.
They also accused the Government of being corrupt, spoke of their opposition to vaccines and raised concerns about the mental health impact of Covid-19 lockdowns.

Very few wore masks as they listened to the speeches. There were regular shouts of “fake news media” and a number of members of the press were shouted at by individual protestors.

A number of publications were handed out to the crowd, including a two-sided sheet titled The People’s Paper. The opening line of the main article mentioned the bank guarantee and singled out a number of politicians, including Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, for criticism.

There was also a comment article regarding peat bogs, wind farms and criticism of the Government’s focus on environmental energy projects.

Separately, an elderly woman handed out fliers from The White Rose organisation, a British based anti-mask group.

A handful of protestors were carrying Irish Freedom Party leaflets, which were handed out at the recent Dublin protest. That previous protest saw incidents of violence, and subsequent arrests last week.

Demonstrators carried posters criticising Government and health officials – there was cheering during the speeches. The event concluded with a muted rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann.

There was a very large garda presence on the streets and on the approaches to the city. Checkpoints were placed on the M8 at the Horse and Jockey, where sources said a number of people were turned around.

There was also a large checkpoint at the motorway near Midleton in East Cork, which is the main road into Cork from Waterford and Wexford. There were a number of garda checkpoints at strategic points and in towns around the country.

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Around 200 gardaí, both uniform and plain clothes, were on duty manning the streets. A specialist control system was put in place in the command-and-control unit located in Anglesea Street Garda Station.

The gardaí mingled with the crowd and a speaker also asked members of the public to cooperate with the officers.

The garda helicopter hovered overhead during the protest. A large number of plain clothes gardaí were also in the crowd, including a Superintendent and Inspector.

Gardaí had been briefed early in the morning and it’s understood this included being issued with an operational order which included images of people of interest. The policing plan was designed in a graduated response and included some members of the Public Order Unit who were gathered from stations across Munster. They were not present at the event, but were instead parked at a location in the city.

Separately, a man was arrested in the Patrick Street area of Cork earlier today for breaches of the Health Act 1947. 

Gardaí implemented the 4 E’s (engage, educated, encourage and as a last resort enforce). However, gardaí said the man in question refused to comply with them. 

He is currently detained at Anglesea Street Garda Station. 

It’s understood the man was a street performer in the area and the incident is not linked to any demonstrations or movements. 

With reporting by Hayley Halpin and Adam Daly 

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