Gardaí review CCTV footage of bottles being thrown in Dublin with more arrests expected

More than 30 people arrested on Friday and Saturday for alleged public order offences

Gardaí on patrol in Dublin city centre. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

Gardaí on patrol in Dublin city centre. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

 

CCTV and other video footage of people throwing bottles at gardaí in Dublin this weekend is being examined as part of a wide-ranging investigation and further arrests are expected, a senior Garda has said.

More than 30 people were arrested on Friday and Saturday in Dublin city centre for alleged public order offences. There were multiple incidents of small groups of youths throwing bottles and other missiles at officers, prompting the Garda public order unit to disperse groups on both days.

On Saturday night, after incidents in different parts of the city, gardaí effectively closed several streets, including Grafton Street and Dawson Street.

Despite the difficulties over the last two nights, gardaí do not believe their approach is flawed and feel they have adequate resources on duty, with policing strength in the capital traditionally higher on a bank holiday.

Following a review of the incidents other the last two nights officers also don’t believe they need to change their approach for Sunday night.

“Look, even if we do everything right can we say we will stop all potential trouble? Probably not. The atmosphere on a street can change in a few minutes when a different group comes along. There could be flash points again tonight, but hopefully they will be small. And if there are incidents we’ll respond appropriately.”

The senior officer, with experience of public order policing, said perspective is important around what had happened over the weekend.

“Out of more than 100,000 people in the city on Saturday, we had a couple of hundred young people, including a fair number of youths, who wanted to engage with us and were looking for trouble.

“Even then, if you look at the consequences, there were no serious injuries, no damage to property, no windows broken, no looting, no arson and one assault. The main issue was youths throwing bottles at our members and we can take that all day once we have the shields up,” said the senior officer.

“We would of course rather not to be policing the streets with the riot shields out, it is not a great look. But it is a defensive measure to protect our members; the shields have no offensive function”.

He said despite the focus on the violence, if what happened this weekend was compared to the June bank holiday in 2019, the overall number of public order incidents this weekend was not significantly higher.

“So, on a normal bank holiday you would usually have a higher number of assaults and other more serious incidents on the streets, more people being injured. The main difference from a normal weekend is the incidents on Saturday were very concentrated in terms of time. The other different aspect is the throwing of bottles at gardaí, but even then, this happens every Halloween and there is little enough notice given to it,” he added.

The officer said their policing plan for the capital as the country reopens was seeking a balance with regard to the number of officers on the ground.

A key consideration was not to inadvertently create a tense atmosphere by having very large numbers of officers on patrol.

“That can make people feel very uneasy and tense and bring its own problems. We want people to be able to relax and enjoy themselves . . . There are rules around drinking in public and some Covid regulations remain in force, but we are trying to police in the spirit of what is intended and strike a balance.”

Limited Garda powers

Asked whether gardaí should be more proactively seeking to prevent larger groups congregating, he replied that gardaí were quite limited in terms of their powers to direct people away from certain areas.

“We might see certain people coming into certain areas and think, ‘ideally they would go to a different area’, but legally we have limited powers to stop someone until there is a problem . . . Some of the people you would be dealing with in a scenario like this wouldn’t be inclined to take direction from gardaí anyway.”

He said the containment strategy deployed by gardaí aimed to move the group throwing bottles until that group eventually dispersed.

“Once people see a line of gardaí and they can see we aren’t going anywhere, the vast majority of people head off. A few more will stay and throw more bottles and in that case you clear the group from the street because once this group disperses it is usually all over very quickly. It is amazing how quickly the mood changes.

“The challenge we have is that a small number of people are coming into town not just to meet their friends but to see what craic they can get up to and for some that means having a go at gardaí. But it is important to remember the numbers involved in this are very, very small.”

The officer said the investigation into the incidents on Friday and Saturday was extensive and it was almost certain that there would be more arrests.