The Minister for Justice has defended the Garda response to the disorder in Dublin city over the bank holiday weekend which has resulted in at least 33 arrests.
Heather Humphreys said the vast majority of people are enjoying themselves responsibly outdoors and “we cannot let the actions of a tiny minority intent on causing trouble overshadow that.” She enforcement remained “a last resort” when policing the pandemic
Ms Humphreys also warned: “We have made so much progress in tackling the virus and we must not put the further re-opening of our society and economy at risk.”
Earlier this afternoon Ms Humphreys said on Twitter: “While none of us want to see situations where An Garda Síochána deploys the Public Order Unit, they must do so on occasion to protect the public and their colleagues.”
Dublin’s city centre was busy but calm early on Sunday evening, with crowds gathering around South William Street, Dame Court, Dame Lane and Anne Street South for outdoor pints and food.
In Temple Bar Square Garda public order units cleared crowds, mostly made-up mainly of teenagers, from around shortly after 6.30pm without any issues.
At around the same time two Garda public order unit vans arrived and officers started to clear crowds on Dame Court and Dame Lane but there were no confrontations.
By 7pm, about two dozen gardaí were patrolling South William Street including a public order unit who were stationed at the castle market junction beside Grogan’s.
Earlier, a senior garda defended the force’s policing operation in Dublin city centre over the bank holiday, claiming the aim was to protect the public and officers.
Officers used shields and batons as large crowds gathered in the city centre. Nineteen people were arrested last night for alleged public order offences following another night of disorder in Dublin city centre.
Gardaí said they “came under fire from an assault of multiple glass bottles” on this street from a group of approximately 200 young people.
This followed similar scenes in the city on Friday, which resulted in 14 arrests.
‘Will not be tolerated’
Assistant Garda Commissioner Anne Marie Cagney said three gardaí had been injured over the weekend.
Ms Cagney said: “Unfortunately yesterday evening, and the evening before, we had a number of individuals who just won’t accept that there are laws to abide.
“They have taken it into their own hands to try and cause trouble for the community, and this is unacceptable behaviour. We have had a number of missiles thrown at gardaí and part of our community are living in fear.
“This will not be tolerated. “It’s a group of like-minded, young individuals who are predominately coming into the city and causing trouble.
“We’ve had three members injured over the weekend and I will not tolerate that.”
Gardaí said in a statement that while the majority of people in the city on Saturday were quietly enjoying themselves a smaller group was persistently involved in anti-social behaviour and public disorder.
Gardaí said they came under attack from glass bottles at various locations, and a number of criminal damage incidents occurred, including a bin being set on fire on South William Street.
One person, who was not a member of a group taking part in any public disorder incidents, was assaulted and taken to hospital.
Between 7pm and 9pm gardaí dispersed crowds from Stephen’s Green, Temple Bar, South William Street and South Anne Street.
A Garda spokesman said: “In support of Government announcements on reopening the economy and society with a specific continuing emphasis on outdoor activity, An Garda Síochána will continue to patrol and manage crowds on public streets and spaces.
“While extra facilities are being provided by local authorities, An Garda Síochána appeals for consideration for other persons using the spaces, local residents and businesses.
Gardaí appealed to the public to support and comply with public health guidelines to avoid crowded areas and large gatherings and take personal responsibility, wear face coverings in open spaces, and maintain social distancing.
“The wearing of face masks outdoors and social distancing are public health guidelines and are not penal regulations,” the spokesman added.
A detailed investigation is under way into the violence on Friday and Saturday with gardaí examining CCTV footage from the city centre. A senior Garda said further arrests were expected.
Sinn Féin’s Maireád Farrell said the Government needed to provide facilities for the public to enjoy an outdoor summer.
“The reality is that an outdoor summer is one that people have been told they need to prepare for. That’s across the state and we need to make sure that we are prepared for that,” Ms Farrell added.
“People were told that they should prepare for an outdoor summer and very clearly it doesn’t seem like things are in place for that to actually happen. “We need to make sure that the scenes that we saw at the weekend don’t happen again.”
“I think we need to be cognisant of the fact as well, there seems to be some sort of a blame game amongst certain cohorts saying young people are there and causing havoc.”