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Thirteen people charged after special court sitting to deal with anti-lockdown protest arrests

The gathering breached public health restrictions and turned violent at times.

Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Feb 28th 2021, 3:05 PM

THIRTEEN PEOPLE HAVE been charged and remanded in custody after yesterday’s anti-lockdown protest in Dublin city centre. 

23 people were arrested and a special sitting of Dublin District Court took place last night. 

The gathering breached public health restrictions and turned violent at times.

Three gardaí suffered injuries, one of whom needed hospital treatment for a broken ankle.

Of those arrested, 13 appeared before the Criminal Court of Justice and have been remanded in custody to appear before Cloverhill District Court at a later date.

Seven people were charged with offences and released on station bail and three juveniles were released for consideration of inclusion in the Juvenile Diversion Programme.

Yesterday’s protest was planned for Stephen’s Green at 2pm. An order was given by gardaí to close both Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square parks and to begin clearing the area.

The Grafton Street operation was being directed on the ground by a Superintendent from a city centre station.

A public address system was set up by protesters near the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre entrance at about 2pm, and speeches were made. However, once these speeches were over the atmosphere in the crowd turned more hostile.

As this was happening some in the crowd began shouting abuse at gardaí.

As officers formed a cordon to begin clearing the top of Grafton Street a group of three people in the crowd lit a firework and moved to the front of the crowd, launching it at the line of public order and uniform officers. Firework bangers were also flung during this phase of the protest. 

President of the Association of Garda Sergeants & Inspectors (AGSI) Antoinette Cunningham today said yesterday’s protest was “utterly unacceptable”. 

“What we saw yesterday on the streets of Dublin rightly is condemned by everybody, all political leaders, and I think society generally have condemned the behaviour of people yesterday. 

“It is truly shocking to see fireworks directly fired at the faces of unarmed colleagues, it’s really very very shocking and very worrying.”

Speaking yesterday, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that “you don’t carry fireworks to a protest with any other purpose than to engage in violent conduct, as we saw today, and it’s with regret that has to be said”.

“But we will follow through with an investigation and bring perpetrators to justice. We have already made 20 arrests and inquiries will continue into this matter and a senior investigating officer has been appointed,” Harris said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that he “utterly condemns” the protest, which “posed an unacceptable risk to both the public and gardaí”.

“The large gathering, in the face of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, showed a complete lack of respect to the people who have made huge sacrifices during this pandemic,” he said.

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“Nor can we tolerate the thuggish behaviour or attacks on gardaí, who have the public’s utmost respect as they continue to protect and serve our society in difficult circumstances.”

“There can be no justification for the march or the violence that unfolded, and I pay tribute to members of An Garda Síochána who moved quickly to make arrests and restore order.”

Similarly, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was “horrified to see this on our streets”.

“Irish people have spent last year fighting Covid. There is no excuse for violence to gardaí or anyone,” he said on Twitter.

“This behaviour on Grafton St by a selfish few undermines sacrifices that millions have made in the last 12 months.”

Leader of Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald described the protest as “reckless”.

She said the actions were a “slap in the face to the people of this city and beyond who have made huge sacrifices over the last year”.

“Shocking and disgraceful scenes.”

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