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Still from a video of a fire at the protest

Timeline: What happened in Newtownmountkennedy yesterday evening?

The Taoiseach, Justice Minister and Garda Commissioner have all condemned the violent scenes.

GARDAÍ MAINTAINED A presence overnight at a site in Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow, earmarked for asylum seekers after six people were arrested for public order offences yesterday evening.

There have been a number of protests near Trudder House in recent weeks after the Department of Integration said it was considering locating tents for up to 160 international protection applicants at a vacant property on the site.

Protesters, a mix of local people and others who travelled to the area, gathered at the site yesterday evening.

Videos online showed violent clashes between gardaí and members of the public, as well as a fire which was lit on the site.

Gardaí said they “came under attack” and that three patrol cars were damaged. Videos also showed gardaí using pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

Five people have since been charged in relation to the incident.

Some locals say the site is an unsuitable location to house asylum seekers and that the resources of the village are already overstretched.

A number of anti-immigration protesters have also attended the site in recent weeks and encouraged others to join the ongoing protest.

In a statement issued today, a spokesperson said the Department of Integration “strongly condemns any alleged attempts to drive division and hostility towards those who come to Ireland seeking asylum”.

Acts such as these achieve nothing but endanger people’s lives and homes.

The spokesperson said a Community Engagement Team (CET) has been established to “engage directly with elected representatives, relevant Local Authorities, Local Development Companies, and other entities and individuals”.

‘Very unacceptable scenes’ 

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris visited the site in Newtownmountkennedy this morning.

Harris said there were “very unacceptable scenes seen here in terms of a protest, which then turned to violence”. He said rubble and stones were thrown at gardaí.

“We’ve seen an attempt to burn a small outhouse-type premises, but also then, disgracefully, attacks on members of An Garda Síochána who were attacked with stones, and indeed vehicles have been damaged. One vehicle, the vehicle behind me, was damaged with an axe,” he said.

Harris said the windows of a patrol car were “smashed with an axe, not a hatchet, a full-size axe”. Other vehicles had their lights broken or tyres slashed, he added.

Taoiseach Simon Harris also condemned the violence. He said gardaí are “charged with upholding the laws of the land and they should be supported in doing so”.

“This is a country of laws. Attacks on gardaí should be condemned by all,” he stated this morning. 

Justice Minister Helen McEntee echoed this sentiment, saying: “Any attack on a member of an Garda Síochána is an attack on our democracy and our state.”

Timeline of events 

So, how exactly did events unfold yesterday? Here’s a timeline.

Early yesterday morning, members of the Garda Public Order Unit escorted trucks into the site ahead of construction work.

Throughout the day, people continued to gather. Some protesters heckled construction workers and gardaí with many people filming these interactions and posting them online.

One person chained themselves to machinery at the site and was removed by gardaí. 

As tensions increased, garda management sent messages to public order gardaí throughout the afternoon and evening asking them to divert to the area.

More protesters and gardaí arrived, and there was an escalation in violence. Stones were thrown at gardaí and patrol vehicles were damaged. Gardaí were filmed using pepper spray on some of those present. 

Shortly before 8.30pm, garda management put out an urgent assistance call asking every unit in nearby areas to drop what they were doing and come to Newtownmountkennedy immediately. A similar callout was made in November when riots erupted in Dublin city centre

Most protesters left the site in Newtownmountkennedy late last night, but some gathered in a nearby field.

In a statement released at 11.45pm, the Garda Press Office said: “An Garda Síochána respects the right for citizens to exercise their constitutional rights; this right does not extend to breaches of Criminal Law, the interference with the rights of other citizens to carry out their daily activities, or to attack members of An Garda Síochána.

“Any Garda activity in relation to evolving events involves a graduated policing response taking into account relevant legislation and public safety, with enforcement as a last resort.

“An Garda Síochána is also aware of misinformation and disinformation being spread in relation to this ongoing incident.”

Five people charged 

In an updated statement released this morning, gardaí confirmed that five of the six people arrested have since been charged.

Three men and one woman have been charged for offences contrary to the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994. These four people will appear before the District Court today.

One man has been charged with alleged offences contrary to the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 and the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1997. He has been released to appear before court at a later date.

One male juvenile has been released without charge. A referral will be prepared for the Youth Diversion Project in accordance with the Children Act 2001.

With reporting by Niall O’Connor and Laura Byrne 

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