Protective barriers erected at Russian embassy after truck drives through gates

‘I’ve done my bit, lads,’ says Leitrim businessman Desmond Wisley

The Russian embassy in Ireland says it "appreciates" the co-operation of Irish authorities after a large truck was driven through its gates on Monday afternoon.

The embassy had initially accused the Government of violating international law for allowing the incident to happen, and claimed members of the Garda “stood idle” as the incident happened.

In a follow-up statement, however, the embassy said: “We would like to inform that additional measures have been undertaken by the Garda to ensure safety and security of the embassy and its personnel. The embassy appreciates cooperation by the Irish authorities in this matter.”

Security barriers had been erected on Monday evening creating a buffer between the embassy and protesters.

The driver of the truck, Leitrim businessman Desmond Wisley, was arrested for criminal damage and remained in custody following the incident on Orwell Road in south Dublin. There were no injuries.

Gardaí said he was expected to be brought before a sitting of Tallaght District Court on Tuesday morning.

Videos of the incident show the truck reversing into the gates and forcing them open as a number of protesters looked on. There were some shouts of “Bravo” and “Well done” from the group.

Mr Wisley then exited the vehicle and handed out photos of what he said were Russian atrocities in Ukraine.

“I just done this to create a safe corridor for the Russian ambassador to leave Ireland,” he said.

“I want the ambassador and his colleagues to leave this country, leave this free country,” he said. “It’s about time we stood up.”

Mr Wisley identified himself as a “working man” from Leitrim and commented that he is going to be arrested shortly.

“I’ve done my bit, lads. It’s about time the rest of Ireland done their bit,” he said as he was led away by gardaí.

Mr Wisley is part of a family-run ecclesiastical supplies business, supplying products to churches including wine, bread, altar cloths, banners, candles and vestments.

The arresting garda said to him: “I have to arrest you now unfortunately for dangerous driving.”

‘Blatant violation’

In an initial statement, a Russian embassy spokeswoman said: “The incident took place in the presence of Garda officers, who stood idle.

“The embassy strongly condemns this criminal act of insanity directed against a peaceful diplomatic mission. The embassy views this incident as a clear and blatant violation of the article 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic relations of 1961.

“The embassy is in contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs of Ireland, demanding that the Irish authorities take comprehensive measures to ensure the safety of its staff and their family members.

“The incident is cause of extreme concern. We believe that no people of sound mind could support such senseless and barbaric actions,” the spokeswoman said.

The more conciliatory statement thanking the Irish authorities was issued after 6pm.

A Garda spokeswoman declined to comment on the allegation that gardaí stood idly by, saying the force “does not comment on statements or remarks made by third parties”.

In a statement, the Garda said it was “investigating an incident of criminal damage that occurred at a property on Orwell Road this afternoon, Monday 7th March 2022 at approximately 1.30pm.

"One male was arrested and taken to Rathfarnham Garda Station where he is currently detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984. Investigations are ongoing."

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it "does not comment on security issues or incidents" and that it is "in ongoing contact with An Garda Síochána through established channels in relation to the security of foreign embassies based in Dublin".

Witnesses

Lukasz Ryz, a Polish man who was protesting outside the embassy on Monday, said the truck driver initially passed by the embassy and then started reversing the vehicle.

“He said to everyone: I want to destroy this gate. He made sure everyone was out of the way. He was conscious of safety,” said Mr Ryz.

Another protester, Katherine Condren, from Skerries, said when the truck drove past and then started reversing “I thought he was lost.”

Given the secure nature of the facility, “I was shocked how quick [the gate] went down,” she added.

The embassy has been the scene of daily protests since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 10 days ago.

Just 20 minutes before the truck rammed the gates several demonstrators sat down on the road in a bid to block Russian embassy staff from leaving the compound. Gardaí had to intervene to allow the staff depart in a convoy of diplomatic cars.

Red paint has repeatedly been thrown on the entrance by protesters and graffiti stating “Nazis”, “Blood on your hands” and “F**k Russia” has been daubed on the exterior.

Last week the embassy removed the golden eagle which had decorated the entrance after it was covered in red paint.

It is understood several complaints of vandalism have been made to the Garda by embassy staff.

Anger towards the embassy has increased since comments from Ambassador Yuriy Filatov on Russian television last week accusing accusing Ireland of being to the forefront of "anti-Russian events" in the European Union.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent