Anti-lock-down protesters urged to book homeless beds to avoid ‘5km rule’

On messaging boards people encouraged to contact a homeless agency and book a bed

Gardaí patrol at one of today’s anti-lockdown protests in Dublin city. Photograph: PA

Gardaí patrol at one of today’s anti-lockdown protests in Dublin city. Photograph: PA

 

Anti-lockdown protesters were urged to book accommodation for homeless people in a bid to circumvent the Covid-19 rules limiting people’s movements, according to a well-known advocate for homeless people in Dublin.

On messaging boards where the St Patrick’s Day Dublin protests were planned, people were encouraged to contact a homeless agency and book a bed for several nights.

By doing so they were told they would have an address in the city centre and so could circumvent rules limiting their movements if stopped by gardaí checking whether they were making essential journeys.

“For people travelling to Dublin for the protests, if you go to homelessdublin.ie ring the homeless free phone number and they will book you into a homeless hostel for a few nights,” the message said.

It further stated that booking a homeless bed did not amount to taking a bed from somebody else as the authorities “just source more accommodation” of short-term beds.

Garda sources said they were aware of the message in circulation, adding it was being examined. However, it was unknown if anyone had taken the advice and booked a homeless bed. The messages were not written by protest organisers but were instead offered as advice to others by a visitor to the messaging platforms.

‘Worrying’

Cllr Anthony Flynn (Ind), the co-founder of Inner City Helping Homeless, said he had been sent the messages, which he described as “worrying”.

“Homeless services are stretched every night. Working on the frontline I see the lack of bed availability,” he said, adding any protester who booked a bed would increase pressure on the homeless services.

Under the current lock-down rules only essential journeys are permitted and people are also permitted to exercise within 5km of home. Anyone making any journey within 5km of home is unlikely to be issued with an on the spot fine as any journey could be attributed to “exercise”.

By booking a homeless bed in the city centre, a person could have travelled to any protest site within 5km of their bed address. If stopped by gardaí at any point they could have said they were out exercising and so avoided being turned back or fined.