May Day policing plans 'heavy-handed'


Left-wing campaigners organising May Day protests to coincide with the visit to Dublin of EU heads of state have condemned what they describe as "heavy-handed" Garda plans to police the event.

While the Garda yesterday refused to discuss its policing arrangements, Garda sources confirmed that both water-cannons and armed gardaí would be made available to riot police if violence erupted.

Dublin Grassroots Network, one of the main organisers of the protests, said the "unwarranted" security arrangements would generate greater tensions, and increase the likelihood of clashes.

A spokeswoman for the group, Ms Aileen O'Carroll, said "if you set up a situation where gardaí are armed, you are legitimising a certain level of force.

"What makes matters worse is that this is being organised in secret. We would like to know the rules of engagement, and under what circumstances guns or water-cannon can be used."

A Garda spokeswoman said yesterday: "We will be issuing a press release in the next week or so in relation to our arrangements and outlining the numbers involved. But we are not commenting in the meantime."

The Garda Commissioner, Mr Noel Conroy, has already indicated that gardaí are targeting a six-hour period on May 1st, between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m., during which they believe trouble is most likely to occur. The Phoenix Park will be closed for the day as heads of state meet at Farmleigh House to celebrate the accession of 10 new members states to the EU.

A number of streets approaching Phoenix Park, and in the city centre, may also be closed to avoid large groups of demonstrators congregating.

Dublin Grassroots Network is leading a coalition of Irish and international protesters on a march from the city to Farmleigh where they are planning a noisy protest against the EU's "Fortress Europe" policy on immigration.

Garda leave has been cancelled for the weekend, and at least 4,000 gardaí - or a third of the force - will be on duty on May Day itself. About 1,200 of these will be assigned to public order duties.

Soldiers and gardaí have been given special anti-riot training and a Garda intelligence unit has been established at Harcourt Square to compile information on possible troublemakers travelling to Dublin from other countries in Europe.

Mr Rory Hearne of the left-wing Another Europe is Possible Coalition, which is organising a separate protest on May 1st, said the Garda plans were "part of a serious attempt, stemming from the highest level of Government, to intimidate people not to turn up on the day, and to stop the anti-war movement in its tracks.

"All the protests planned for the day are completely peaceful. So it's totally irresponsible to have armed gardaí. What evidence is there that there will be violence? None."