Dublin streets could be closed off after 'enormous crowds' gather over weekend

Senior gardaí averse to ‘heavy-handed’ response despite breaches of Covid-19 rules

May 30th, 2021: Eyewitness footage has captured large crowds gathering in Dublin city centre on the evening of Saturday, May 30th. Video: Ronan McGreevy/John Collins

 

Parts of central Dublin could have controls introduced to curb on-street drinking and large gatherings of people, though senior gardaí say they are reluctant to significantly respond to scenes witnessed in parts of the city at the weekend.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said he was “absolutely shocked” at scenes he witnessed just after 8pm on Saturday around South Great George’s Street, Exchequer Street and South William Street.

He said there were “enormous crowds – like a major open-air party” and feared that progress made to combat Covid-19 could be undone by gatherings of this nature.

Video footage of large crowds eating and drinking on the streets later emerged on social media, and the area was very heavily littered when teams of Dublin City Council workers arrived for a clean-up operation on Sunday morning.

A number of Garda sources said areas could be fenced off in Dublin city centre to prevent crowds gathering in a similar fashion again. They added that other controls, such as those seen around Temple Bar on St Patrick’s Day, could be implemented.

This would involve a cordon being placed around areas and access points being manned by gardaí. While access would be open to anyone, places could be temporarily closed or people moved on should they become too congested.

However, the sources were not in favour of such policing tactics being introduced at this stage given the apparent end of the pandemic was in sight.

“We’re nearly out of this period, and the schedule for reopening means a lot of pubs will be opened in just days and weeks, so to go in heavy-handed wouldn’t make much sense now,” said one officer.

He believed “more normalised socialising” would return after next weekend as outdoor hospitality reopened.

Four arrests

Gardaí said the Public Order Unit, in “flat cap” mode rather than in riot attire, and the Garda Dog Unit were deployed in Dublin city centre at about 9pm on Saturday.

People were asked to move on from South William Street and the surrounding area. Gardaí stressed people were well behaved and moved on when asked to do so, with four arrests for public order offences.

People gathered at the Middle Arch in Galway city. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
People gathered at the Middle Arch in Galway city. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
Crowds gather in the city centre on Saturday. Photograph: Ronan McGreevy
Crowds gather in the city centre on Saturday. Photograph: Ronan McGreevy

Garda headquarters said people congregating in Temple Bar and St Stephen’s Green were also dispersed by gardaí, though no arrests were made there. It reminded people the Covid-19 public health guidelines were still in place and urged them “to avoid crowded areas and large gatherings”.

There were similar scenes in Cork, with 12 people arrested for public order offences following gatherings in the city centre at locations such as Kennedy Quay and Grand Parade, which also necessitated a clean-up operation.

Galway City Council reinstated restrictions at the area known as the Middle Arch – between Wolfe Tone Bridge and Claddagh Quay – at the request of gardaí after large crowds gathered. “This temporary closure under Covid-19 restrictions will be in place for a number of weeks,” the council added.

Dublin City Council said it had “very few powers” to deal with the type of gatherings referred to by Dr Holohan as they were not organised events. It added the gatherings were “contrary to current public health regulations” and should not happen. It would review the situation this week and “discuss it with other stakeholders”.

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