Gardaí on the ground in Cork city say they are happy with the resources provided by garda management for today's policing operation in the city.
Extra personnel have been deployed into the city centre in anticipation of a planned anti-lockdown demonstration, due to start at 2pm.
One source told: "There are sufficient resources here, we are happy enough with that."
As well as policing potential public order issues, gardaí will be enforcing public health regulations, because the event is deemed non-essential. Gardaí will also be enforcing the 5km travel limit regulations.
Meanwhile Kevin Herlihy, who owns three Centra stores in the city centre, told thethat if there is any trouble he will be closing his shops.
"We're on standby, particularly the store here on [St] Patrick's street where the protest is going to go ahead next door at Brown Thomas," he said. "We're prepared to close the doors if it kicks off and I presume if it does kick off we will be closing."
The Cork Branch of People Before Profit (PBP) have added their voices to the calls for the public to stay away from today's anti-lockdown demonstration in Cork city, as businesses in the city prepare for potential trouble.
"We understand that many people are angry at restrictions as well as the government's deep mismanagement of the covid-19 crisis," the party said in a statement.
Instead, they are encouraging people instead to join the call for a zero-covid strategy in Ireland, which they say believe allow for an earlier easing of restrictions than the existing situation.
A visible Garda presence is expected in the city today, with the planned demonstration due to start at 2pm.
It is understood pubs in the city who are selling takeaway drinks have been asked to remain closed for the afternoon.
Cork City chairman of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland and owner of The Castle Inn, Michael O’Donovan, said they have been in contact with gardaí and will comply with any requests in relation to takeaway alcohol or other measures.
“We have been in contact with the guards since early on this week regarding the event,” he told The Echo.
The Cork TD said that while he knows people are stressed by Covid-19 restrictions, “mass public gatherings to protest are counter-productive”.
“Please listen to Gardaí, Lord Mayor & public health advice. I know people are stressed by restrictions but mass public gatherings to protest are counterproductive and will be a spreader of Covid. Please don’t turn up to anti-lockdown protest in Cork,” he said in a tweet last night.
The plea followed a call yesterday by Lord Mayor of Cork, councillor Joe Kavanagh for the organisers of the planned rally to “please cancel it”.
“I fully understand the frustration of people,” said Mr Kavanagh. “For a year people have felt caged; their lives have been restricted; their ways of life restricted; their businesses have suffered; they’ve lost loved ones in a lot of cases, but unfortunately the type of event that’s proposed in our city... could present all kinds of problems for the people of Cork in the long term.”
Sinn Féin TDs Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire and Thomas Gould also asked the people of Cork to stay home today. “We do not want a repeat of last weekend’s events in Dublin here in Cork,” they said. “Gatherings of hundreds of people will not help the situation. We have already seen elsewhere the impact such gatherings can have on transmission.”
The organisers of the ‘Rally for Truth’ have said the reason they are holding the event is to seek answers on a number of issues including ending lockdown, the treatment of the elderly, and people’s right to work and travel.
Appointed spokesperson by the organisers, Diarmaid Ó Cadhla said: “Saturday’s event will be a peaceful family one, including a number of speakers and musicians, everyone should attend”.
In response to queries from The Echo, a spokesperson for An Garda Síochána said they had no comment to make in respect of potential events which may or may not occur.
However, they did outline the relevant Covid-19 regulations currently in place: “The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No.10) Regulations 2020, as amended, are currently in force.
“Regulation 8 places restrictions on individuals organising relevant events outdoors. This is a penal regulation.
“Regulation 4 places restrictions on travel outside the home except for a reasonable excuse. This is a penal regulation.
“Attending an event organised in breach of these regulations is not a reasonable excuse to travel outside your home.” They continued: “An Garda Síochána has no role in permitting or authorising protest marches or gatherings, as there is no permit/ authorisation required for such events. “Where An Garda Síochána can identify potential organisers of such events, An Garda Síochána has and will engage and advise those organisers as to the current Public Health Regulations, their responsibilities and potential consequences.
A decision as to whether any protest takes place or not is a matter for the organisers, in full knowledge of the current Public Health Regulations.”
They also highlighted their approach to policing the restrictions: “Garda members engage, explain, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce. Where Gardaí find potential breaches of the public health regulations a file is prepared for the DPP in each case or a Fixed Payment Notice is issued where appropriate.
“The Covid-19 Pandemic remains a public health crisis and An Garda Síochána continues to appeal to all citizens to comply with Public Health Regulations and Guidelines, in particular essential journeys, in order to continue to save lives.
Cork GP and Covid-19 advisor to the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), Dr Mary Favier meanwhile warned that the consequences of having a ‘superspreader’ event such as a protest or rally in Cork could dramatically increase the Covid incidence rate here, which is currently the lowest in the country.
Speaking to The Echo, Dr Favier said the current public health guidelines were in place to protect not just the individual but also every person that individual comes in contact with.
The Cork GP said she was not against protesting or peaceful assemblies, but that at this time it was not safe to attend such events.
“It’s not to discourage expressing an opinion or disagreeing, but they have to be careful not to do that in breach of public health guidance. The guidance is there for a reason and it is to protect everyone,” she said.
Dr Favier added: “I would discourage people to participate unless they can guarantee that they are wearing a mask and six feet apart.”