Gardaí use pepper spray as protesters disrupt central Dublin
O’Connell Bridge blockaded during rush hour demonstration
Gardaí scuffle with protesters after a small group tried to gain access to the Dáil on the first day of the Dail after the summer recess Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Gardaí used pepper spray on protesters who gathered outside Leinster House yesterday demonstrating against the Government’s austerity agenda.
A number of the people participating in the protest were doused with the spray at about 4.30pm when there was a surge of bodies towards a barrier being manned by gardaí at the junction of Molesworth and Kildare Street near the Leinster House entrance.
Ambulances arrived on the scene a short time later to assist those who had been sprayed as well as a man who fell ill after the brief clash. A small number of protesters were sprayed earlier in the day after attempting to pass a barricade. A Garda spokeswoman said three people were treated in hospital, two after being pepper-sprayed and one following a fall.
Pepper spray was introduced across the Garda in 2010 and Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission figures show it was used 3,500 times in the period up to last August. However, it is not a legal requirement that the use of the substance be reported to the commission.
The protest took place as the Dáil returned from its summer recess, and there was a large Garda presence in the vicinity of Leinster House from dawn, with members of the mounted and dog units later arriving.
Several hundred members of groups including Anti-Eviction Ireland, Pensioners Against Cuts, Irish Republican Voice, Republican Sinn Féin, Unite trade union and the Socialist Workers Party were involved in the protests. Last night, gardaí said three people were arrested during the day.
There were serious traffic delays after about 300 individuals broke away and moved from the Kildare Street area towards O’Connell Bridge in the early evening. These individuals then formed a blockade of this area.
All traffic up and down the Dublin quays, as well as vehicles moving north and south between d’Olier Street and O’Connell Street, was blocked by individuals who either sat or stood in the centre of the road. Several double-decker buses were marooned on the bridge and passengers had to disembark.
Flags and banners
Tony Rochford, a Trim, Co Meath man who went on hunger strike earlier this year in protest at the property tax, said he had helped to organise yesterday’s Dublin protests through Facebook. He said the demonstrations had mushroomed and various other organisations and individuals had joined in.
Many of these groups and individuals held flags and banners expressing republican sentiments. Some posters and banners called for bankers to be jailed while there were chants to “take back our city”. Members of the Garda were subjected to threats and verbal abuse.
At one point, one of the protesters with a megaphone directed others to form single-file lines across the length and breadth of O’Connell Bridge to maximise the challenge for gardaí to disperse them.
“Let’s form as many lines as we can so that the whole bridge is blocked,” he said. “This is absolutely pivotal – it’s shutting down the city and stopping the movement of traffic.”
At 7pm he told the crowd that gardaí in riot gear had been deployed to disperse them, and directed them to return to Leinster House.