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Simon Harris: 'Racism disgusts me, but protests that don't support social distancing are not possible'

The Heallth Minister said he understood the motivations of protesters and “would have been there with people in normal times”.

Image: Sam Boal

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has said that protests that draw big crowds and that don’t allow for social distancing “are not possible” at the moment.

Yesterday, thousands marched through Dublin – from the GPO to the US embassy – in a show of solidarity to anti-police brutality and anti-racism demonstrators in the US. 

Due to the size of the crowds that gathered, social distancing wasn’t possible which has led to concerns about health and safety in the midst of a global pandemic.

Gardaí said this evening that they were investigating potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations at the demonstration. 

Speaking this evening, Harris said “I know how emotional the issue is”.

“Racism is a sick virus in and of itself, it disgusts me and makes me feel ill to the pit of my stomach, it has no place in society, no place in this country, no place in this world.

“But mass gatherings and are not possible because we have to do everything we possibly can to keep each other safe.

I fully understand the motivations of people’s protest, I would have been there with people in normal [times].
We’re all sickened by racism – but mass gatherings that don’t practice social distancing, at the moment, are not possible. 

When asked about the issue at this evening’s Department of Health briefing, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that the ban on mass gatherings is in place is “because we think that can increase the risk of transmission of this virus”, which represents a risk to life to a certain cohort of the population.

Notwithstanding your sense of feeling… now is not the right time to be attending events that have the potential to become mass gathering, if many more like-minded people like you, however well-motivated, attend.

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“So I’d be asking people to exercise judgement in their decisions to attend, on the basis of them becoming essentially impromptu mass gathering events.”

Another Black Lives Matter protest is planned for this Saturday, 6 June.

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