The erection of a mock gallows at a far-right protest outside Leinster House on Wednesday is being investigated as a potential criminal offence.
A figure in a suit with bundles of cash in its pockets and photos of Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman were hung from the noose.
It is understood the erection of the gallows is being treated as a potential criminal offence under various pieces of legislation including incitement to hatred, public order laws and laws against threatening or intimidating behaviour. Gardaí are confident they know who set up and transported the gallows, and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecution.
The protests, which also saw TDs attempting to enter Leinster House targeted on Kildare Street, drew widespread condemnation on Thursday as the political system grappled with the fallout and the consequences for political life.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl told The Irish Times that increased vetting was being considered for visitors entering the Leinster House campus in the wake of the protests, while the Taoiseach, speaking in Florida where he was opening a new Irish Consulate in Miami, said threats are being made against politicians by people who have a history of violence and convictions.
Mr Varadkar said he knew “something about” some of the protesters who were outside Leinster House on Wednesday as they had protested outside his own house in the past.
Tánaiste Micheál Martin said some of the behaviour “approximates to sort of fascist-like behaviour” and signalled that some of the comments made may meet the definition of hate speech and behaviour that incites hatred.
The Taoiseach signalled caution regarding calls to beef up security significantly around Leinster House, while Mr Ó Fearghaíl said the complex and chambers are “the people’s house” and it was “vitally important” that appropriately safeguarded access for the public entering the complex was maintained.
However, he said there could be increased vetting of visitors entering the complex. “No definite decisions have been taken, but obviously in the aftermath of [Wednesday’s events] we will have to be more careful to be satisfied anyone coming on to the campus is who they say they are,” he said.
“It will not be intrusive and our staff will continue to be warm and welcoming, but, at the same time, taking more care to protect staff and members from this sort of abuse.”
The Ceann Comhairle and senior figures from the Houses of the Oireachtas service met senior gardaí on Wednesday to discuss the fallout from the protests, with a security review under way and further engagement promised. He emphasised the need to safeguard the right to protest at the seat of parliament, but warned that if the situation was allowed to “fester and continue ... something awful will happen.”
“We are never going to have an ideal situation but we can’t sit back and twiddle our thumbs and see a Jo Cox or David Amess situation develop here,” he said, referring to the murder by extremists of two British politicians since 2016.
Thirteen people were arrested throughout the day. Most of these were arrested as they attempted to block staff from leaving the building. Two men have since been charged with public order offences.
Gardaí are examining CCTV and social media footage of the day’s events to identify other offenders. Sources say more arrests are expected but not in the immediate future.
The use of the gallows was reminiscent of a similar prop erected before the US Capitol building during the riots of January 6th, 2021.
However, some gardaí are sceptical the investigation will result in criminal charges. One senior officer said gardai have submitted cases to the DPP in the past regarding the use of offensive material at public protests, including during anti-abortion protests in the lead-up to the referendum on the Eighth Amendment in 2018.
In all such cases, the office of the DPP declined to bring charges as they viewed the actions as falling under the right to free expression.
Nine of the 13 people arrested on Wednesday are to appear before Dublin District Court on October 18th charged with a variety of public order offences.