More than 100 people gather in Co Donegal for anti-Covid-19 restrictions rally
Protest in Donegal just hours after Phase 3 restrictions introduced
Ben Gilroy: a speaker at Donegal event. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
People carrying placards and waving tricolours gathered at Market Square in Letterkenny for what they called a “peaceful assembly” on Saturday.
Gardaí observed the rally but did not make any arrests. However, they did speak to a number of participants.
The vast majority of those who attended the event did not wear masks as they gathered in groups. Many travelled from across the border in neighbouring Derry for the rally.
Before the event, local business leaders including chief executive of Letterkenny Chamber, Toni Forrester, pleaded with the organisers to abandon their plans.
Local county councillor Micheal Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig also criticised the gathering.
The crowd was addressed by a number of speakers including the main organiser of the event, Kim McMenamin. Mr McMenamin said he was not against people wearing masks but said the second wave of Covid-19 was a lie.
He encouraged people to read up on what he described as the real facts surrounding the “scamdemic” as he called it.
“Is there a second wave? No there isn’t. We must research and get the knowledge.
“Arm yourself with information and once you have the information spread it to everyone you know.
“We are sick of lies, hypocrisy and deceit from Government. We’re not taking it no more,” he said.
He added that it was up to the Irish people to challenge regulations saying Irish schools were now like prison camps.
He also challenged the media for “promoting lies on behalf of the Government” and encouraged people to seek out information on the internet.
There were small disturbances when some people clashed with those holding the event while others filmed the media covering the event.
Gardaí had said earlier that they were aware of the event but said the wearing of masks or social distancing were not “penal regulations”.
“Gardaí are aware of a protest planned to take place in Letterkenny. An Garda Síochána has no role in permitting or authorising protest marches or gatherings, there is no permit/authorisation required for such events.
“The Government on the advice on National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) announced increased public health measures that are being applied to stop the spread of Covid-19 in Co Donegal commencing at midnight on Friday, September 25th.
“The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No.5) Regulations 2020, as amended are currently in force, and place penal restrictions on persons organising certain events.
“Individual attendance, social distancing, wearing of masks in public area and other such guidelines are not penal regulations.”
The statement said that in supporting the Covid-19 public health guidelines and regulations, “An Garda Síochána has and will continue to adopt, a graduated policing response based on its tradition of policing by consent”.
“This has seen Garda members engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce. Where potential breaches of the Public Health Regulations are identified a file is submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a direction as to how to proceed.”