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Nationwide order for extra Garda patrols at homes of politicians and State officials

The move follows a number of protests outside the homes of high profile politicians and State figures.

GARDAÍ HAVE ISSUED a nationwide order for local units to carry out extra patrols at the homes of politicians and State officials they believe will be targeted by protestors.

Sources said the direction was drawn up having received detailed intelligence on the activities of anti-vaccine activists.

It follows protests by small groups of people recently outside the homes of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan.

“The reports were issued to various divisions and districts, not just in Dublin but also nationwide,” a source said. 

“Gardaí have been told to increase patrols in the areas and monitor any potential problems.

“This is not just at the homes of Government politicians and high-profile officials like Tony Holohan but also lower level employees of certain State agencies that members of this group have an issue with.”

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána declined to comment on the order when contacted by The Journal.

Individuals who organised and attended the recent protests last month pledged to continue with these types of demonstrations on a weekly basis and threatened to prevent their targets from leaving their homes.

Gardaí are conducting investigations into previous such protests.

Sources said that the operational order to gardaí was in place before the murder of British MP David Amess a week ago.

Asked about security for Irish politicians yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that there needs to be a review of arramgements.

The Taoiseach already has a Special Detective Unit close protection detail and – in keeping with recent protocol for all Irish heads of government – also has a permanent Garda post at his Cork home. 

Speaking to reporters yesterday he said: “In all matters to do with security and policing, I think intelligence is the key ingredient and is the key prevention factor.

“No-one wants an intrusive or over the top sort of security presence around politicians. It’s part of our ecosystem in [Irish] politics to have clinics, to have that interaction with people on the ground.

“It’s a very positive feature of Irish politics and we have to protect that.

“I think it’s through the intelligence network and the intelligence capacity of An Garda Siochana and others, that’s the ultimate protection that we can give to politicians, to spot things before they become challenging and difficult.

There are difficulties. I think the online hate messaging – groups are forming who create bile around politicians and target politicians and target others as well, I think that’s not acceptable either. On the physical security side we have to keep an eye on it.

Social Democrats co-leader and spokesperson on justice Catherine Murphy said last month that the government should look at whether there are pieces of legislation that can be applied in response to the recent protests at politicians’ houses. 

“I believe in the power of protest and the right to protest in a democracy,” Murphy said. 

“But I think when somebody’s family home is targeted and there are people living in that home who are not public representatives who are equally targeted it is unacceptable.

“That isn’t a protest, it’s intimidation and I think we need to separate these things.”

Senator Malcolm Byrne is bringing forward a Bill that would make it an offence to engage in targeted protesting outside a private residence.

He received approval in principle for the Bill at this week’s Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting and hopes to introduce it in the Seanad in the coming months. 

The Bill will make it an offence to knowingly organise or take part in a protest outside a person’s home. 

“One would think we wouldn’t have to introduce such legislation to protect people’s homes but sadly we have seen a tiny minority who shout loudly about rights but haven’t a clue about responsibilities and feel it is acceptable to target a person in their home.

“There are plenty of places to peacefully protest apart from outside a person’s home. We are fortunate in Ireland to have that right,” he said.