Complaints over protest policing


The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has begun investigations into the Garda's policing of a student demonstration on Wednesday at which sections of protestors clashed violently with gardaí.

The ombudsman commission, which investigates complaints against gardaí, has received 10 complaints from members of the public about the Garda's tactics on the day.

The Garda's Public Order Unit, or riot squad, was deployed during the clashes and the forces's Mounted Unit and Dog Unit were also used to help bringing the protest under control.

The Unions of Students of Ireland (USI), which organised the mass rally through Dublin city centre, quickly distanced itself from the small section present on the day that clashed with gardai.

The USI blamed "left-wing" groups for the "destructive and anti-social violence" which it said would only divert attention from its campaign against higher student fees.

Both USI and Garda sources said a hardcore of around 50 protestors intent on trouble had hijacked the protest, which had an estimated 25,000 turnout. Many of them had been drinking and threw cans of beer and cider, as well as bricks, at both gardaí and the Garda horses.

Supporters of Sinn Féin, the Socialist Workers Party and republican socialist group Éirígí were prominent among about 50 protesters who made it inside the Finance building, only to be swiftly ejected by gardaí.

Gardaí in riot gear drew their batons and mounted officers were deployed during clashes with several youths that lasted about 45 minutes.

Some protesters suffered cuts to the head and bloody noses during the scuffles. One garda was admitted to hospital with a broken nose, while two others were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

There were three arrests. The suspects were taken to Pearse Street Garda station, and one was released without charge. The other two were charged with criminal damage and breach of the peace offences and released.

Joe Higgins MEP of the Socialist Party today questioned the Garda's tactics.

"The use of Garda horses and dogs against student protestors in Dublin on Wednesday is an outrageous abuse of the right to protest. The intention was clearly to intimidate peaceful protestors and it is an utter scandal They should never again be used against protestors."

Mr Higgins did not attend the protest but based his comments on video and mobile phone flim clips.