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Councillor says protest organisers to blame for woman's injuries - not gardaí

There have been calls for an investigation into garda conduct at the protest.

Image: Dublin Says No

THE DEPUTY MAYOR of Fingal has said the blame for an incident which saw a woman sustain a head injury lies with organisers of yesterday’s protest at the council building and not gardaí.

Videos emerged online yesterday showing a small demonstration in which protesters blocked the entrance to Fingal County Council’s offices in Swords. The footage shows gardaí attempting to remove two women and glass from the revolving door can be heard shattering. One of the women is later shown with blood streaming down her face.

A Sinn Féin motion on water charges was on the agenda for the council meeting and the mayor had agreed to move it up the running order, in a bid to pacify the protesters.

Councillor Natalie Treacy said those demonstrating outside were waiting for the motion to be debated.

“I saw pictures of the poor girl’s face and it should never have got to that,” she said. Though the Sinn Féin councillor said she did not see the incident first-hand, she has watched the footage in the videos.

“Looking back on the footage, the gardaí do seem to be very heavy-handed but then the protesters shouldn’t have been trying to get into the building so they were doing their job. But people are entitled to protest, people have had these austerity cuts pushed on them.”

‘Blame lies with organisers’

Speaking to TheJournal.ie today, Fine Gael councillor and Deputy Mayor Ted Leddy said he feels “quite sorry for the lady” who was injured but is “disgusted by all of the anti-garda smears” that have been made since the footage surfaced.

“It really is just unfortunate but the blame clearly lies with the organisers of the protest who have been trying to disrupt our meetings for a long time. It’s inevitable that something like this would happen.”

Local anti-water charge protesters have successfully disrupted a number of council meetings in recent months. Leddy said “huge costs” have been incurred by the council as it has had to hire additional security to deal with the protests. Since July 2013, more than €30,000 has been spent by the council on extra security.

Leddy’s party colleague councillor Kieran Dennison, who is chair of the Joint Policing Committee said senior gardaí in the area have also said policing at water protests in general has been putting “a huge strain on garda resources”.

‘Responsibility rests with gardaí’

Their sentiments were definitely not mirrored by Anti Austerity Alliance councillor Matthew Waine who believes it is “clear from the footage that the responsibility for the violence and damage done rests with the gardaí.”

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“The protesters were engaged in a peaceful civil disobedience protest.”

Waine said he takes issue with some of the debate around the concept of a person’s right to protest, as it seems to him that this right only exists if it is a non-effective protest.

“Is the right merely to be determined by what gardaí will tolerate?” he asked. “They will tolerate people marching up and down on a warm summer’s day but when it comes to people actually trying to have an impact then you find your rights become restrained.”

Waine is calling for an investigation into garda conduct at the protest and said he expects witnesses to make complaints to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

A spokesperson for GSOC said the body has not yet received complaints about this incident.

“In order for a complaint to be admissible, the person has to be directly affected by the alleged garda misconduct or they can be a direct witness.”

Read: Woman left bloodied after gardaí attempt to move anti-water charge protester>

Read: “Massive non-payment of this charge is vital if we want to stop this beast”>

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