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urgent appeal St Patrick's Day 2021: Public urged to stay home as gardai gear up for major policing operation ahead of anti-lockdown protests

Gardai are to mount a massive operation to prevent planned anti-lockdown protests on St Patrick’s Day.

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Protesters and gardaí clash during an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin city centre on Saturday February 27. Photo: Damian Eagers/PA Wire

Protesters and gardaí clash during an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin city centre on Saturday February 27. Photo: Damian Eagers/PA Wire

Protesters and gardaí clash during an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin city centre on Saturday February 27. Photo: Damian Eagers/PA Wire

Protests could lead to people getting sick, it has been warned ahead of planned anti-lockdown demonstrations on St Patrick’s Day.

Gardai are to mount a massive operation to prevent planned lockdown protests in Dublin on Wednesday.

More than 2,500 gardai will be deployed across checkpoints and arterial routes on St Patrick’s Day.

At the moment, any congregation in large numbers, in breach of the public health guidelines, is a risk to our health and safety.Minister Simon Harris

It follows demonstrations at Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green last month, which saw Gardai attacked with fireworks, 23 arrests and a number of injuries.

On Tuesday, Minster Simon Harris said those events were not protests but were “an attack on our democracy and it was an attack on who we are as a people”.

He told reporters: “At the moment, any congregation in large numbers in breach of the public health guidelines, is a risk to our health and safety. We have to be consistent in relation to that.

“Things that are well meaning or things that people can feel strongly about could make people sick.”

He added: “The more disturbing scenes that we saw in our capital city, I don’t believe was a protest.

“What we saw a number of weeks ago, with people taking a firework device and aiming it directly at Gardai was not a protest, it was an attack.

“It was an attack on the men and women of An Garda Siochana. It was an attack on our democracy and it was an attack on who we are as a people.”

Labour’s Aodhan O Riordain said that the protests and far-right elements are putting people’s lives and health “in danger”.

But he added that the Government has to do more to offer people hope if is to tackle the rise of the far-right.

Speaking at Leinster House, Mr O Riordain said: “We would encourage people not to attend such protests, they are putting people’s lives in danger.

“But we also think that the rhetoric from the Government has to be different. The far-right only ever achieve anything in any country when there is a vacuum.

“And if people have no hope, or are not offered hope, or are only offered a return to normal when for many people normal was the problem, well then they are only going to grow.

“They are only going to get more support from people who are disaffected or fear there is no hope.”

He added: “What Government needs to do this St Patrick’s Day is talk about the kind of country that we’re going to return to.”

Gardai will be patrolling roads on both the north and south side into Dublin city centre. People will be asked for the reason for their journey to establish whether is it essential.

Several protest events are being planned via social media, by disparate groups in different locations in Dublin city centre.

Demonstrators are expected to gather in Herbert Park, while a second group has been organised to protest outside the headquarters of RTE before marching into the city centre.

Gardai have warned that further protests are also expected to take place across the city.

Gardai will stop people at bus stations and Luas stops on Wednesday to ensure people are not breaking Covid-19 regulations.

More than 2,100 fines have been issued to people for organising or attending a house party.

Despite constant warnings about public health advice, gardai say they are still finding people gathering in large groups at social occasions and at house parties.

As of March 12, gardai have issued 429 €500 fines for organising a house party, and 1,677 €150 fines for attending a house party.

On Wednesday, gardai will deploy personnel from the national units such as the dog unit, the mounted unit, air support and public order.

Checkpoints will be in place on arterial routes into the city and checks will be conducted on public transport over the course of St Patrick’s Day.

Deputy Commissioner, Policing and Security Anne Marie McMahon said: “While it won’t be a normal St Patrick’s Day, we can still all enjoy the day safely at home.

“Staying home this St Patrick’s Day is the best thing people can do for their country and the best thing they can do for the people they know and love.

“As is the case with all protests, An Garda Siochana seeks to engage with protest groups in advance.

“However, some groups choose not to engage with us. It should also be noted that An Garda Siochana has no role in licensing or approving such protests.

“An Garda Siochana is again advising the public of the need to plan their activities to take account that people are only allowed to exercise within 5km of their home.

“In other words, you can’t travel more than 5km to a location to exercise.

Staying home this St Patrick’s Day is the best thing people can do for their country and the best thing they can do for the people they know and loveDeputy Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon

“The public should also be aware that both drivers and their adult passengers found to be in breach of the non-essential travel regulations can be fined.

“This is also the case for adults in groups undertaking activities such as cycling or walking – every adult in such a group can be fined.”

Gardai said that travel restrictions do not apply to anyone subjected to domestic violence.

In a statement, a garda spokesman said: “An Garda Siochana continues to appeal to any person who may have been the victim of an incident of sexual or domestic crime, irrespective of whether you may have been on breach of any public health regulations, for instance by attending a house party, gardai is here to assist and support you, please report all such incidents.”


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