Anti-lockdown protests signalled for St Patrick’s Day

One group planning gathering at RTÉ before march into city centre on March 17th

A Garda spokesman declined to comment on ‘potential events which may or may not occur’. File photograph: The Irish Times

A Garda spokesman declined to comment on ‘potential events which may or may not occur’. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

Anti-lockdown groups have been using various social media platforms to orchestrate demonstrations over the St Patrick’s Day holiday.

One group is planning to gather at RTÉ’s headquarters in Donnybrook before marching into Dublin city centre on March 17th while Herbert Park is among the other locations people have said they want to congregate in protest at the lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19.

Yellow Vest Ireland said it would be supporting what it said was a “positive mental health awareness initiative” in the park on St Patrick’s Day and called on its “support base [to] also support the initiative”.

It said it was not, however, organising the event.

A Garda spokesman declined to comment on “potential events which may or may not occur” and stressed that the force has “no role in permitting or authorising protest marches or gatherings” as there is no permit or authorisation required for such events.

He said a “decision as to whether any protest takes place rests solely with organisers” but added that public health regulations placed “certain restrictions on individuals organising relevant events outdoors and on travel outside the home except with reasonable excuse”.

He said the authorities would continue to adopt a graduated policing response based on its tradition of policing by consent which has meant gardaí “engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce”.

The spokesman concluded by saying personal social responsibility, the wearing of face coverings in open spaces and social distancing were public health guidelines and not penal regulations and the Garda would “appeal to all citizens to demonstrate personal and social responsibility to comply with public health guidelines and regulations, in particular essential journeys, in order to continue to save lives”.

Abusing gardaí

At the end of last month an anti-lockdown protest organised online by a group called RiseUp Éireann turned violent with at least three gardaí injured and dozens arrested. While much of the crowd was peaceful, several groups began to abuse gardaí and instigate violence including members of the far-right National Party, the Irish branch of the Proud Boys and former members of Generation Identity.

Following the violence, most of the crowd walked to the GPO on O’Connell Street where they were addressed by anti-lockdown speakers.

RiseUp Éireann declared the event a success. “Ireland rose up!” it posted. “The greatest awakening is here.”

The group uses its social media accounts to call for an immediate end to lockdown and to spread conspiracy theories, including that Covid-19 is a hoax.

Gardaí have been monitoring public anti-lockdown and far-right groups online and have attempted to liaise with protest organisers in the past to put in place crowd and traffic management plans.

It is understood the is no concrete intelligence suggesting there will be violence on Wednesday. However sources add that plans for violence usually take place on encrypted messaging services, rather than on public forums.

Currently the main worry for protests on St Patrick’s day is people engaging in anti-social behaviour after consuming alcohol, security sources say.

The Garda Public Order Unit will be on standby in Dublin on Wednesday but will likely retain a discreet presence unless needed.