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CMO Tony Holohan 'absolutely shocked' at Dublin city centre gathering

Gardaí have confirmed that they deployed the Public Order Unit to the area and made four arrests.
May 30th 2021, 8:11 AM 163,655 320

Updated May 30th 2021, 8:00 PM

CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER Tony Holohan has criticised a large gathering in Dublin city centre.

He said on Twitter that he was absolutely shocked when he saw the size of the crowd on South Great George’s Street, Exchequer Street and South William Street on Saturday night. The area is home to a large number of pubs and restaurants. 

Dr Holohan tweeted: “Drove into Dublin City Centre to collect someone from work at 815 PM. Absolutely shocked at scenes in South Great George’s St, Exchequer St, South William St area.

“Enormous crowds – like a major open-air party. This is what we do not need when we have made so much progress.”

Videos circulating on social media and messaging apps showed a large crowd of several hundred people in the small area, particularly concentrated around the junction with Coppinger Row.

In one video there were two men dancing naked with the crowd cheering. There were other videos showing the street full with people and images of the crowd cheering as a man climbed a pole.

Martin Deniau of Monte-Cristo in the Powerscourt Centre on South William Street is a member of retail lobby group Dublin Can Be Heaven – it was his video that circulated on social media.

He told The Journal that Dublin City Council has been asked to be more pro-active in dealing with these situations. 

“When I came out the door I saw a sea of people partying and it was only after that I realised that no one was wearing a mask,” he told The Journal

“One young guy was speaking to me and it took time for me to realise that he was giving out to me that I was wearing a mask.

“The street was strewn with metal cannisters and I googled it and I realised they are a drug young people take.

“The crowd was very busy, but it was not unpleasant, people were friendly – for example people offered me beer. It was just a big party.

“From the perspective of a trader I am concerned because my mature customers have deserted the city and they will be put off by this.

“My group has asked Dublin City Council to better manage these situations but they have not. For instance, they have not provided toilet facilities. There is one toilet up by Stephen’s Green and there is often 200 people queuing to use it.

“That is not acceptable, there needs to be greater planning – and if that planning was in place then this may not have happened on South William Street,” he said.

A Garda spokesperson said that gardaí had arrested four people in an operation to clear the street. 

“A policing operation was put in place by Gardaí following reports of a large number of persons congregating at South William Street and adjoining streets in the Dublin 2 area on the evening of Saturday 29th May, 2021,” the spokeperson said. 

“The operation involved Gardaí from the Public Order Unit and the Dog Unit and the crowd was subsequently dispersed. Four persons were arrested for public order offences.

“Persons congregating in Temple Bar and St Stephen’s Green were also dispersed by Gardaí. No arrests were made.

“As public health regulations continue to be reduced and activity begins to normalise An Garda Síochána continues to remind the public of the ongoing public health guidelines, which include not to gather in large groups, maintain social distancing and wearing of face coverings in crowded public spaces.

“An Garda Síochána continues to appeal to the public to avoid crowded areas and large gatherings,” the garda spokesman said. 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, speaking on RTÉ Radio One, said that the South William Street gathering was not what the Government wanted to see. 

“It’s a crowded outdoor space, we still recommend that people wear face masks and observe social distancing so those scenes were not the kind of things that we want to see.

“But I would caveat that by saying that, you know, I do understand that people have had a really tough couple of months and haven’t been able to see family and friends. The weather is good, understandably, people are going to get outdoors and I’d rather see them outdoors than indoors,” he said.

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Varadkar said that he believed gardaí have a role in controlling the gatherings and that they must make a judgement call on the best response.

Dublin was not the only city where a large crowd gathered to enjoy the warm weather.

In Cork gardaí made 12 arrests while dealing with crowds in the city centre.

Galway City Council closed off access to Middle Arch in the city centre, following requests from the Gardaí due to large crowds gathering there in recent days.

The area of Middle Arch is located between Wolfe Tone Bridge and Claddagh Quay, and the area has been closed since early this morning.

Dublin City Council said that they were working to clean the area around South William Street today.

“Dublin City Council staff were on hand this morning on a number of streets in the city to deal with a significant amount of waste left behind overnight.

“Gatherings of the size and nature are contrary to current public health regulations. These gathering are not planned events and as such Dublin City Council has very few powers to deal with them.

“We encourage all citizens and businesses to act in a responsible manner and adhere to public health regulations.

“Dublin City Council will review the situation this week and dicuss it with other stakeholders,” the statement said.

Public health officials confirmed a further 374 cases of Covid-19 in Ireland as of midnight last night.

The Department of Health also confirmed that there are 99 people in hospital receiving treatment for Covid-19, with 35 of those patients in ICU.

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Niall O'Connor

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