Student climate change strike to go ahead in Dublin despite Garda concerns

Gardaí worried about proposed route and safety of young protesters

Gardaí were concerned that while teachers were present at previous events, they were unable to control students. This resulted in some young people climbing onto scaffolding and even the apparatus holding the Luas cables.   Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Gardaí were concerned that while teachers were present at previous events, they were unable to control students. This resulted in some young people climbing onto scaffolding and even the apparatus holding the Luas cables. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

A student climate change strike looks set to proceed in Dublin city centre on Friday despite the Garda expressing serious reservations about plans for the event.

Garda Headquarters said it had not refused the organisers permission to hold the strike but had instead advised them of crushing risks and other safety concerns. On Thursday evening contact was continuing between the Fridays for Future Dublin group and the Garda about the event.

The planned protest is the latest in a series of student-led events to urge action in Ireland on climate change. The Dublin events, and others around the country, have been part of a global protest movement started by Swedish climate-change activist Greta Thunberg.

Previous events have been attended by tens of thousands of students around the country, with the largest turn-out witnessed in Dublin. However, gardaí say because of the numbers that attended in Dublin last year and the fact that many were unsupervised, safety concerns have now emerged.

Gardaí believe that asking what could be several thousand people to meet at the bottom of Grafton Street at lunchtime on a Friday would lead to unsafe volumes of people in the area that could lead to crushing

Garda officers are also worried about the proposed route for Friday’s march and say the route and the numbers expected could lead to safety issues such as crushing and disorder.

‘Right to protest’

“An Garda Síochána respects the right for anyone to exercise their right to protest and facilitates such protests as long as they do not create a public hazard or a health and safety risk,” the Garda said in a statement.

“In the last few weeks alone, An Garda Síochána has facilitated large-scale protests by different groups in the city centre.

“In relation to this specific request, An Garda Síochána liaised with the group in question and An Garda Síochána has not refused the group from protesting.

“Instead, An Garda Síochána has expressed significant concerns about the protest as currently planned from a health and safety perspective.”

It was intended the students would gather near Grafton Street in Dublin’s south inner city before marching to Kildare Street via Nassau Street and that up to 2,000 would attend.

Concerned about the route

However, gardaí were concerned about the route and meeting point. Gardaí believe that asking what could be several thousand people to meet at the bottom of Grafton Street at lunchtime on a Friday would lead to unsafe volumes of people in the area that could lead to crushing.

Gardaí were also concerned that while teachers were present at previous events, they were unable to control students. This resulted in some young people climbing onto scaffolding and even the apparatus holding the Luas cables.

Fridays for Future Dublin issued a short statement on Thursday confirming the event would take place despite saying the Garda would not sanction it.

“The strike will take place at the statue of William Conyngham Plunkett on Kildare Street – between National Museum and Department of Agriculture – from 1-2pm. See you on the streets,” it said.

A stage is expected to be erected outside Leinster House where those in attendance would hear from speakers.