Gardaí have confirmed that an arrest has been made after an officer was assaulted during a protest over the movement of International Protection (IP) applicants into Columb Barracks in Mullingar last night.
Protesters had gathered at the Barracks gates from 1pm onwards to halt a bus of asylum seekers which was then arriving but was ultimately turned away two hours later as crowds continued to gather.
An earlier bus carrying around 30 IP applicants had successfully entered Columb Barracks at around 11.35am without issue.
Gardaí maintained a presence on the site from 1pm onwards, however a statement released today confirmed that additional units were brought it at roughly 9pm to allow staff to enter the site.
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“On Friday evening, at approximately 9pm, a number of protesters blocked an entrance to the premises. Gardaí requested the crowd to disperse to allow for staff to enter the property,” they said.
“A male Garda was assaulted during this time. The Garda did not require medical treatment.
“A man in his 20s was arrested for public order offences shortly after midnight. He has since been released. A file will now be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
Gardaí also removed tents which had been erected by protesters outside of Columb Barracks who have been staging a 24/7 demonstration for a number of weeks.
It was confirmed that the crowd later dispersed from the scene shortly after 1.30am but returned to the site on Saturday morning to resume the protest.
The plan, according to the Department of Integration, is that the 10-hectare (25 acre) site will be used to initially house 120 single made IP applicants in 15 tents before this is upgraded to Portakabin type units where Ukrainian refugee families will also be housed.
The Department of the Defence had managed the former military installation since its closure in 2012 but handed over an agreed area to the Department of Integration to manage earlier this month, where the tented accommodation has been installed.
Up to 30 community groups have been using the site since its closure for military purposes and have voiced their concerns regarding the disruption this may cause to their activities.
A statement issued on behalf of the Department of Integration condemned the ongoing protest at Columb Barracks.
“The Department is aware of an ongoing incident at Columb Barracks, and is liaising with An Garda Síochána.
“Over the past year, communities across Ireland have demonstrated great solidarity and welcome to those who have come here seeking refuge. The Department strongly condemns any attempt to promote division and hostility,” they said.