Stand-off Rival protesters clash outside Dail in Dublin city centre
Baton-wielding gardaí battled to keep two rival groups of protesters away from each other during a tense stand-off outside the Dail on Saturday afternoon.
One man was arrested as a counter-demonstrators tried to rush through crowd barriers to confront National Party supporters protesting against Ireland’s Covid-19 restrictions.
About 100 people had gathered on Kildare Street to hear a speech by Justin Barrett of the far-right National Party.
Across the street a larger and louder crowd had gathered outside the Molesworth Hotel to voice their opposition.
Mask-wearing protestors at one point demanded identification from journalists approaching their demonstration.
Shouting “Paedo scum off our streets”, they also pushed against garda lines separating them from those gathered at the gates of the Dail.
During his speech Mr Barrett warned that the far right is always right and was rising.
“Michael Martin is not the leader of this country,” he said to cheers. “He is a land agent for absentee landlords who used to live in London but now reside in New York and Brussels.”
While some of those who had gathered to listen to him wore masks the majority did not.
Gardaí formed two lines to keep both sets of protestors away from each other. Some of those who had gathered to listen to Mt Barrett accused the other side of intimidation after an earlier incident when counter-demonstrators tried to rush through crowd barriers to confront them.
As gardaí at the scene intervened to keep the two sides apart, missiles and crowd barriers were thrown and fireworks exploded.
“You can see that we are gathered here peacefully while they are causing violence,” said one man who was holding a banner that that read ‘Let Ireland Live’.
However, both sides were reluctant to speak directly to a journalist as members of both groups said they did not trust the media.
Gardaí said one man, in his 30s had been detained over a public order offence and was being held in Pearse Street Garda Station.
Under Level 3 Lockdown restrictions, it is a criminal offence to hold an outdoor event with more than 15 people - making this the second time that these groups have broken those rules.
A Garda spokeswoman said: “Gardaí in Pearse Street are currently at a scene at Kildare Street and Molesworth Street regarding a protest today.
“One man in his 30s has been arrested for Public Order offence and is currently in Pearse Street Garda Station.”
She added: “No further details at this time. Gardaí remain at the scene.”
Gardaí had feared violence at Saturday’s event after a march on nearby Grafton Street two weeks ago saw hundreds of ‘anti-mask’ campaigners stage a sit down protest on the pedestrianised street.
Up to 1,000 marchers, angered about current health restrictions, made their way through the city centre waving Irish flags before holding a sit-down protest.
Images of the protest on the city’s most popular shopping street were circulated online, and showed the street packed with people carrying tricolours.
Gardaí had indicated at the time that protesters had gathered at Customs House Quay, but while a smaller group headed for an ESB depot in Dublin Port, a larger group walked towards Trinity College.
They then entered Grafton Street where gardaí admitted they were powerless to stop them, as taking part in an organised event is not an offence.
Some critics wanted the gardai to intervene and make arrests, however, a Garda spokesman said the force plays no role in sanctioning protests and that no authorisation is required to hold one.
However, a criminal investigation is underway into the organisers of the protest and it is understood that a shortlist of suspects has been identified.
Sources said these individuals will be interviewed and other evidence gathered, and a file prepared for the DPP.
There was also some violence scenes as an ‘anti-mask’ demonstration outside Leinster House on September 12 during which one person was injured.