Garda chief lauds courage of officers at anti-lockdown protest

Over 20 arrested while others suspected of involvement in Dublin violence before courts

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has paid tribute to the "great fortitude and courage" shown by gardaí in the face of violence at an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin last weekend.

Three gardaí were injured in the violence on Grafton Street in the capital during which rioters threw glass bottles and launched fireworks at officers .

About 25 suspects have been arrested so far and several people suspected of involvement in the violence are before the courts.

In an internal communication to Garda members on Thursday, Mr Harris said he wished to "acknowledge the excellent work done in policing the violent protest of 27 February, 2021 and the great fortitude and courage shown by all those on duty".


The commissioner said there has been strong public support for the Garda since the violence.

He said the force has received “many messages of goodwill from the public including those wishing our injured colleagues a speedy recover” and expressions of support from the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Minister for Justice and other political leaders.

“Undoubtedly some individuals in our society are intent on violence and destruction. However, the prompt action taken on the day and subsequently by the investigation team demonstrates that their actions bring consequences.”

The commissioner also announced the withdrawal or review of several emergency measures introduced last year to help the Garda tackle Covid-19.

No further gardaí who are due to retire on age ground will be asked to stay on after March 31st. To date, several senior officers had been asked to delay their retirement to assist in the policing response to the pandemic.

“I want to thank all those who choose to serve for a further year for their commitment . . . during the last difficult 12 months,” Mr Harris said.

The extension of the emergency roster, which was introduced last spring and involved four 12-hour shifts on, followed by four days off, will be reviewed on March 10th, he said.

A decision will then be made on whether to revert to the old roster or extend the emergency roster until September 2021.

The Garda College at Templemore is to reopen this month for training and the 203rd Garda class, which had been assigned to Garda stations last year before completing training, will return to the college to be sworn in as full gardaí, Mr Harris said,

Learning curve for Garda

They will then revert to their Garda stations for a month before returning to Templemore a final time to complete their training.

The probationary period of some trainee gardaí will also be extended “to allow the full cycle of training and assessment of probationer Gardaí to occur”, he said, but this will not affect their seniority in terms of pay.

The emergency measures were introduced last March “in the face of the unknown impact of Covid-19 and against a backdrop of terrible scenes in other European countries”, Mr Harris said.

“The last 12 months have not been easy ones with immense tragedy or debilitating illness being suffered by very many families, together with an ongoing sense of anxiety and uncertainty at large.”

Mr Harris said the Garda has learned a lot in the last 12 months, adding that Ireland was now starting to emerge from the third surge of Covid-19.

He added: "To all in An Garda Síochána I would also wish to acknowledge your strong commitment to public service, the very many policing successes achieved throughout the last 12 months, the stresses and strains of working within such an uncertain context, and your resilience in dealing with increasingly complex and dangerous situations stemming from Covid-19."

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times