A man suspected of shooting a fireworks cannon at gardaí during an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin last weekend could face up to five years’ imprisonment if convicted of the charges the Garda are believed to be preparing against him.
The Irish Times has established that, as well as the 24 people already arrested in relation to clashes with gardaí on Grafton Street on Saturday, efforts were under way within the Garda to identify 60-80 other people present.
Garda sources said the group of suspects appeared to be intent on stirring up unrest in the crowd with a view to sparking clashes with gardaí, and did this mainly by throwing projectiles at Garda officers. The same sources said only some of those people were right-wing protesters.
A major Garda investigation into the riot was now focused on harvesting video footage recorded on CCTV systems all over the city centre on Saturday in a bid to identify those regarded as the main instigators. Almost all of the main suspects were in the crowd at the top of Grafton Street, rather than within a second group of people gathered on King Street South at the same junction onto St Stephen’s Green.
While that work to identify the group of 60-80 main instigators was continuing, the man suspected of shooting fireworks at gardaí in a targeted manner was being held in a south Dublin Garda station on Tuesday night.
Video footage showed a man lighting a fireworks cannon in the crowd on Grafton Street. He then made his way through the crowd before firing the cannon at the line of gardaí, at which point members of the force surged forward and clashed with some of the crowd. A total of 23 arrests were made on Grafton Street and at a related protest outside the GPO on O’Connell Street.
The man suspected of the fireworks attack was arrested in south Dublin on Tuesday morning. He was being held under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, on suspicion of explosives offences. His arrest on Tuesday came 24 hours after properties linked to him were searched by south Dublin gardaí supported by the Armed Support Unit. The man is known to gardaí and has convictions for petty crimes.
While he has previously been present at anti-lockdown protests, gardaí do not believe he is affiliated to any right-wing organisations.
Garda sources said the suspect, a 30-year-old Dubliner, could face charges under the Explosives Act. It provides for the offence of “throwing, directing or propelling an ignited firework at or towards a person or property”, which can result in a prison term of up to five years and/or a fine of up to €10,000.
The same sources said the suspect could be charged with assault causing harm, an offence which could result in a term of imprisonment of up to five years. Gardaí are trying to establish whether there is evidence to link him to injuries sustained by Garda members on duty on the day.