Gardaí seeking to dissuade large gatherings and travel over Easter weekend

Force aware of anti-lockdown protests planned for several counties in coming days

Gardaí are engaging in a massive operation over the Easter weekend aimed at dissuading people from travelling outside their localities and gathering in groups.

Plans are also in place to police a series of protests expected to take place around the country. This includes events involving Riseup Eiréann, the organisers of a February demonstration in Dublin at which skirmishes broke out resulting in three gardaí being injured and around 20 arrests.

The Garda said there would be “high visibility patrols” around public parks, beauty spots and other amenities, and that checkpoints would be established “across the road network”.

The “vast majority” of gardaí would be involved in engaging with the public as part of the policing of the Covid-19 regulations, the force said in a statement.

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Officials fear the combination of a long weekend and growing lockdown fatigue could see large numbers gathering outdoors or in houses to socialise. Social media has been awash this week with videos of large groups socialising outside in the fine weather.

Unsettled conditions

Met Éireann has forecast a dry start to the weekend but conditions are expected to turn unsettled and colder from Sunday night onwards.

Saturday is to be a dry and mostly sunny with high temperatures of just 10 to 13 degrees. Sunday is forecast to be dry early in the day with high temperatures of nine to 12 degrees. Light rain or drizzle is expected to develop in the northwest in the afternoon and spread southwards through the evening.

Gardaí are aware, through social media monitoring, of anti-lockdown protests planned for Limerick and Cork on Saturday, and a "Freedom Walk" that is being planned by Riseup Éireann for Sunday in 11 counties including Dublin.

Gardaí expect the crowds at these events to be relatively small and are not anticipating violence though the Public Order Unit will be on standby in Dublin.

“We will police the event as normal and respond to any disturbances as appropriate,” a senior source said.

Three men were arrested in Cork city on Thursday at a small anti-lockdown protest on St Patrick’s Bridge, which was organised on social media. The three were charged in relation to breaches of Covid-19 regulations and were bailed ahead of a court date.

House parties

Gardaí also appealed to people not to host or attend house parties over the long weekend. According to the latest figures, more than 3,000 fines have been issued to people for organising or attending parties.

“Despite constant public health advice, people are still attending house parties and other social gatherings,” Deputy Commissioner for Policing and Security Anne Marie McMahon said.

“Going to such gatherings puts you, your loved ones, and everyone else you come into contact with subsequently, at risk of exposure to Covid-19.”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times