Large security operation outnumbers protesters
Series of events in Dublin fail to cause significant disruption to Budget speech
A Garda truck parked at the back of Pearse Street Garda station this morning.
Gardaí escorting protesters down Tara Street this afternoon.
A strong Garda presence in Dublin city today was not matched by numbers of protesters on the streets .
One young protester at Leinster House summed it up when he shouted out: “I’ve seen bigger parties”.
Gardaí had mounted a significant security operation to coincide with the Budget. A Garda spokesman confirmed “an increased presence to ensure the city keeps moving today and people get home from work”.
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However, the various protests planned to coincide with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s Budget speech in the Dáil failed to cause significant disruption.
A number of separate groups, including Irish Republican Voice, staged protest marches in parts of the city but they were clearly outnumbered by gardaí.
A ‘Dáil Lockout’ protest was planned in the streets around Leinster House at about 6pm but the numbers were few. By 8pm, most protesters had left the area, while a large Garda presence remained. Organiser Tony Rochford said he estimated the number of people protesting on Molesworth Street as “150 at most”.
There was further disappointment for protesters earlier as they arrived to “occupy” Independent News and Media in Talbot Street. Gardaí outnumbered the protesters, who were denied access to the building where they had hoped to complain about coverage of similar protests. On O’Connell Bridge, members of Irish Republican Voice were again outnumbered by members of the Garda.
Meanwhile, up to 300 gardaí descended on the streets around Kildare Street and Merrion Square in vans, patrol cars, on foot and even in a double decker bus. They kept a crowd of about 70 protesters in Molesworth Street which was sealed off from Kildare Street by a double metal barrier. The route between Leinster House and Buswells Hotel, where many of the post-budget press briefings were being held, was kept clear.
Gardaí formed a line in front of the barrier, where they mostly they fielded questions from members of the public and tourists seeking access to Dawson Street. Among those told to go around by a longer route were a visually impaired man trying to get to his bus stop and a woman in a wheelchair trying to join the protest.
One independent demonstrator Liam Mac An Bhaird, a former Occupy Dame Street protester, explained that he felt the low turnout was due to the division in the political left.
A small group of community and voluntary sector activists also gathered. Among them was Rita Fagan, who said they were there as witnesses for the community sector for the seventh “austerity budget”.
Her message to Government was to “be honest” and “not say they are defending the most vulnerable when they are not, but are defending the rich”.
She described the GP cards for children aged under five as a “political” move, as this money would be taken come from elsewhere - and many vulnerable people were already covered by medical cards.
Community activist John Bissett’s main concern was the “fine detail” which would only come to be understood over coming days and weeks . He said it was “spin” that the Government wanted to help the “coping classes”, as it was not just middle class people feeling austerity but everyone.