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St Patrick's Day

Garda operation plans in place to police protest events on St Patrick's Day

It comes after an anti-lockdown event in Dublin on 28 February at which violent incidents occurred.

GARDAÍ ARE MONITORING social media and messaging services as they prepare for potential activity by anti-lockdown protestors on St Patrick’s Day.

Gardaí believe there are a number of events planned for March 17 across Dublin city and in other areas around the country.

One event, Le Chéile Day, had requested permission to use Herbert Park in Ballsbridge in Dublin but a spokesman for Dublin City Council told the that this has not been given a licence. The event billed itself as a ‘family and mental health’ gathering and was shared on Facebook.

“Under Covid-19 health regulations there can be no gatherings and permission has not been granted for this from Dublin City Council,” a spokesperson for the council said.

A number of social media pages, including one styling itself after the French Yellow Vest protest movement, had posted updates about the proposed event for March 17.

The garda operation involves multiple units and is part of a broader plan to deal with the challenges of St Patrick’s Day. Overtime has been sanctioned to back up the working units. 

A garda spokesperson said a policing plan was in place and that they were continuing to monitor any events planned for the day.

A disparate group of anti-lockdown activists held a large protest in Dublin city centre against health restrictions on February 28. There was an outbreak of violence on Grafton Street as gardaí formed a line across the street near St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre.

A firework was allegedly fired at garda lines and in scuffles three gardaí suffered injuries, including one officer who suffered a fractured leg. Twenty-three people have been arrested so far and one man has been charged with firing an “eight-shot cannon firework” and throwing glass bottles at an officer.

An anti-lockdown protest in Cork on March 6, promoted by The People’s Convention, saw six people arrested on public order or health legislation in a massive garda operation spread across multiple counties.

Sources have said that there were a lot of suggestions following the Dublin protest that there would be further violence on St Patrick’s Day.

“Gardaí are monitoring more mainstream social media platforms like Facebook but there is also a capacity to monitor chat groups on messaging services,” said one source.

“This is what helped the gardaí to identify Dublin and Cork for particular attention.” It’s understood that investigations are continuing into those protests.

“There is a small amount of events planned for the city, across mainstream social media and in chat groups. A lot of people have said they are going to these events but it is impossible to say how many of the people who said they are interested will actually turn up on the day,” said the source.

“It is hoped that a lot won’t venture out on Wednesday morning but there is a plan in place to deal with it, it would be naive to believe gardaí will not be looking at it closely.”

The garda policing plan, particularly in Dublin, has put in place a contingency to deal with problems in the city centre – but sources said that potential incidents in certain suburbs with youth anti-social behaviour is also high on the priority list.

A Garda spokesperson in Cork had no comment to make on the organisation’s operation for St Patrick’s Day. 

Cork City Council said they had not received “any request to accommodate gatherings in any of our Parks on St Patrick’s Day. We would be guided at all times by public health and Garda advice in responding to such requests”.

Sources said that there was a garda plan in place to deal with any contingency including protests but that the Southern Region Public Order Unit has not been called on as yet.

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