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Gardaí restrict access to Phoenix Park due to planned anti-lockdown protest

A ‘March for Freedom’ protest was planned in the Park at 2pm today.

Image: Cónal Thomas

Updated May 2nd 2020, 4:55 PM

DUBLIN’S PHOENIX PARK was closed to pedestrians for a short period this afternoon after an anti-lockdown gathering in the Park was planned for 2pm.

The North Circular Road and Parkgate Street entrances were closed to pedestrians; Garda members were manning the entrances, as people who had intended to walk around the park were turned away.

A protest was organised for 2pm by the unsuccessful presidential, European election, and general election candidate Gemma O’Doherty; it’s understood that this is the reason that the Gardaí manned the entrances to the Park this afternoon. 

An Garda Síochána has insisted that “at no stage was the Phoenix Park closed today”, and that “access was restricted via the city gate (Parkgate Street) for a short period”.

They said that this was done to ensure compliance with Public Health Guidelines.

Gardaí said that they took the names of people who had arrived to take part in the protest. It also said that a senior investigating officer has been appointed to look into breaches of the emergency legislation introduced by government.

The protest was intended to be part of the ‘MarchForFreedom’ movement – a mantra being used in the US for those against severe social restrictions introduced to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in order to help healthcare systems cope with a surge in seriously ill patients.

O’Doherty and John Waters are taking a High Court case against the State over its decision to implement emergency restrictions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a number of instances, their supporters have gathered in a group outside the Four Courts; the Gardaí said that these incidents are being investigated.

In a statement sent to TheJournal.ie, An Garda Síochána said:

An Garda Síochána implemented a policing operation today in the vicinity of the Criminal Courts of Justice and the Phoenix Park, Dublin 8.
Gardaí interacted with a number of persons, some of whom terminated their journeys and left the area. The names and addresses of other persons were recorded in accordance with the Health Act 1947.

“The Minster for Health has signed the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) Regulations in accordance with the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020, which are currently in effect until the 05 May 2020 and which set out details of ‘Restriction of movement of applicable persons’ and ‘Restrictions on events’.

“In supporting the Covid-19 public health guidelines and regulations, An Garda Síochána has adopted a graduated policing response based on its tradition of policing by consent. This has seen Garda members engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce.

“Section 31(a) Health Act 1947 provides for a graduated policing response from a citizen complying with the regulations, to demanding a name and address, to arrest without warrant.

“A Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) has been appointed to oversee the investigation of any breaches of the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) Regulations on this occasion, and previous occasions, and an investigation file will be submitted to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.” 

The Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the Park, has been contacted for comment. 

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