Protest in Dublin against gender-based violence

About 150 people attended ‘Reclaim the streets’ event despite lockdown restrictions

A protest against gender-based violence and the harassment of women passed off peacefully on Tuesday despite the predominantly female crowd being heckled at times by those opposed to their views.

At one point a protestor known from far-right demonstrations shouted repeatedly at those present before being quickly ushered away by gardaí.

A small group of people later also shouted “What about men?” and “What about the unborn?” at the crowd, though they withdrew almost immediately.

Approximately 150 people attended the hour-long “Reclaim the streets” protest which began just after midday at the Spire on Dublin’s O’Connell Street as other similar events took place in other cities.


The protest was organised by the socialist feminist group Rosa - Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism and Austerity. It was called as an act of solidarity with the women arrested in London last weekend at a vigil to remember murder victim Sarah Everard.

Ms Everard (33), a marketing executive, was went missing as she walked home from a friend’s flat in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3rd. Her remains were found in Kent and Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens (48) has been charged with her abduction and murder.

As the crowd began to gather in Dublin on Tuesday a number of uniform gardaí mingled in amongst those present and explained the Covid-19 lockdown rules to them. The gardaí encouraged some people to go home. A number of them left the area, while gardaí took the names and contact details of others.

Organising any public event is against regulations in place at present to combat the spread of Covid-19 while people can also be fined for making non-essential journeys from their homes.

However, former Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger, who spoke at the event, questioned the Garda’s tactics of taking names and addresses, for possible enforcement action later.

“I would appeal to the gardaí to cop on and to be there when we actually need them,” she said. “People often complain can’t get the gardaí when their barring order has been violated or when they come under attack. This is a real issue during the pandemic.”

Domestic violence calls to gardaí had increased by 25 per cent during the pandemic, she noted.

Ms Coppinger said while there was no up-to-date national survey about violence and harassment experienced by women in Ireland, in the UK research had shown that 97 per cent of young women faced sexual harassment and 83 per cent of women altered their plans and restricted their movements over fears of violence.

She said the UK research, the findings of which she believed would be mirrored in Ireland, showed girls as young as 11 years were changing their route home from school to avoid sexual harassment.

“We have a society that encourages and minimises violence against women, a macho culture, an objectification of women,” she said, complaining the Government “invests more in greyhound racing” than on services for female victims.

She believed consent education was required in “school, colleges, workplaces and communities” and much higher levels of funding were required for women’s refuges and NGOs that aided the victims of rape and other sexual crimes.

Legal changes were also required to address the very low rate of convictions in rape cases, while under-reporting by victims was also a major issue.

Asked about Tuesday’s event being held during the pandemic lockdown, Ms Coppinger said people were socially distancing and using hand sanitisers. She added the numbers were modest and that attendees were wearing face coverings.

All of those gathered for the event seen by The Irish Times were wearing face coverings. Positions for attendees to stand were also marked out on the ground so people could socially distance. None of the five people who heckled those present for the protest was wearing a face covering.

There were no arrests made and the Garda took a low-key approach to policing the event, with about 10 gardaí on the scene for the duration of the protest, but leaving the immediate vicinity of the event once it began and watching on at a distance.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times