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'Smaller numbers' Gardaí monitor situation as crowds gather in Dublin city centre for third night

It followed a night of violence on Saturday in which gardaí were attacked with glass bottles and had other missiles thrown at them

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South William Street in Dublin on Friday night. Photo: Gerry Mooney

South William Street in Dublin on Friday night. Photo: Gerry Mooney

South William Street in Dublin on Friday night. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Gardaí were out in force in Dublin city centre again this evening following two nights of unrest.

The public order unit moved on people who had gathered on a number of streets.

Crowds gathered in the south city centre for the third night in a row, however in smaller numbers than previous nights.

Hundreds had gathered on Grafton Street, South William Street, Temple Bar and Drury Street, along with other areas.

At around 7pm the public order unit drove down Grafton Street and held their batons in front of them as they calmly moved people on.

It followed a night of violence on Saturday in which gardaí were attacked with glass bottles and had other missiles thrown at them.

A homeless activist running a soup kitchen on Grafton Street said: “It’s getting out of hand. The homeless are on edge in the city with young people so drunk out of their heads, they’re acting intimidatingly.

“They’re being spat on - it’s out of control.

“I’m looking at the crowds and I think there’s too many young people and not enough gardaí here to stop it.

“I really think the Covid-19 numbers are going to increase due to the sheer number of young people in the city and there’s no social distancing.”

Meanwhile the re-opening of hospitality across the country will be safe, the Justice Minister Heather Humphreys has vowed, after scenes of disorder in the capital on Friday and Saturday nights.

People who go into city centres can know that they will enjoy themselves, she said.

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“An Garda Síochána, as they have been doing, will continue to engage with local authorities, businesses and community groups to ensure that the hospitality sector can re-open safely and stay open safely,” she said.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes are the businesses which have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, the minister added.

“The Government will support them in every way we can as they welcome customers back.

“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. Members of An Garda Síochána are there to assist all of us,” she said.

“As they have done throughout the pandemic, An Garda Síochána will operate a graduated policing response based on the Four Es: engage, explain, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce.”

But DublinTown, which represents businesses in the city centre, said its member were appalled by the behaviour of a minority in their rowdy behaviour and attacks on the gardaí.

It was “entirely unacceptable” that a group of people came to the city with the intention of misbehaving. “There can be no tolerance of such behaviour,” the group said.

Businesses’ spokesman Clyde Carroll said: “We need to create a city where everyone, young and old, feel safe and welcome. It is not acceptable that a small minority undermine safety through their bad behaviour.”

Assistant Garda Commissioner Anne Marie Cagney has outlined the graduated police response, based on the St. Patrick’s Day policing operation, which involves a control room with intensive CCTV monitoring.

Ms Humphreys said so many of us “are looking forward to having a meal, drink or cup of coffee and safely enjoying all our hospitality sector has to offer”, and the Government will guarantee their security in that freedom.

“The vast majority of people are enjoying themselves responsibly outdoors this summer and will continue to do so. We cannot let the actions of a tiny minority intent on causing trouble overshadow that,” she said.

Her remarks came after days of sustained trouble in Dublin city centre, centred on the South William Street area.

Ms Humphreys said she had been in touch with the Garda Commissioner throughout and had discussed the Garda operation.

“We must all continue to work together to maintain the progress we have made in tackling the virus and keep the re-opening of our economy and society on track,” she said.

She described the disorderly scenes seen in Dublin city centre over the last two nights as unacceptable, “particularly throwing missiles and injuring gardaí”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he was concerned at the recent violence as the Government had worked to create safe social spaces outdoors. “We don't want to lose that,” he said.

But he added: “I'm concerned gardaí were injured, and members of the public — that there was an element there. It's not right to be throwing glasses at anyone, and the guards have to protect their own members and protect the public.”

Councils should have event control teams to work with the gardaí “so we actually de-escalate it, and we make sure we do have an outdoor summer”.

However, Solidarity TD Paul Murphy described the actions of gardaí as outrageous, while Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the scenes witnessed were deeply alarming.

She said an outdoor summer “cannot must not mean baton charges on our streets”.

Mr Ryan said order had been achieved in a very well-policed manner. “What has happened is deeply regrettable because what we don't want is baton charges or shields to be needed.

“What we do want is the whole thing to be managed in a much more thought-through manner I think that will be done.”

He told RTÉ radio: “We want people in our city centres and we want people outdoors having a social time. We want that to be safe. Everyone has a role in that.”

 

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