An Garda Síochána’s use of shields and batons amid unrest on the streets of Dublin this weekend has been defended by a senior officer.
Assistant Garda Commissioner Anne Marie Cagney said three gardaí had been injured over the weekend as they attempted to disperse crowds and they had the right to protect themselves, according to The Irish Times.
On Saturday, officers came under attack from a group of around “200 youths” as glass bottles were thrown for a second night. In response, “soft cap” public order units were used to disperse crowds from South Anne Street, Dawson Street and Temple Bar Square.
Ms Cagney said the police response over the weekend had been a “graduated” one, similar to that used on St Patrick’s Day and on other bank holiday weekends.
“My job as assistant commissioner is to provide safety and security for our members and those shields will provide additional safety for our members,” she said.
She blamed the violence on a cohort of “like-minded young individuals, predominately teenagers, who are coming into the city and causing trouble.”
“Unfortunately yesterday evening, and again the evening before, we had a cohort of individuals who just won’t accept that there are respect and laws to be abided to,” she told media.
“So what they have done is they’ve taken it into their own hands to try and cause trouble for our communities, and again, this is unacceptable behaviour.
“We’ve had a number of missiles thrown at gardaí, we had the parts of our community who are left in fear and this will not be tolerated.”
While none of us want to see situations where An Garda Síochána deploys the Public Order Unit, they must do so on occasion to protect the public and their colleagues.
— Heather Humphreys (@HHumphreysFG) June 6, 2021
Gardaí have said that the “vast majority” of people gathered in the city centre over the weekend were “socialising responsibly and enjoying outdoor activity.”
Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys has also defended the force, saying they were working to protect the public.
“While none of us want to see situations where An Garda Síochána deploys the Public Order Unit, they must do so on occasion to protect the public and their colleagues,” she tweeted.
Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton said that a small minority of people went out on both nights “intent to cause trouble”.
“The gardai police by consent, they want to engage, educate people and, as a last resort, enforce,” Ms Naughton told RTÉ.
“Unfortunately they had to do that over the last two nights, but it’s important to say that the vast majority of people are outdoors over the weekend enjoying themselves and doing so safely.”
She added that with the reopening of outdoor dining on Monday, there will be a “more managed approach”.
Sinn Féin’s Mairead Farrell said the Government needs to provide facilities for the public to enjoy an outdoor summer.
“The reality is that an outdoor summer is one that people have been told they need to prepare for. That’s across the state and we need to make sure that we are prepared for that,” Ms Farrell added.
“People were told that they should prepare for an outdoor summer and very clearly it doesn’t seem like things are in place for that to actually happen.
“We need to make sure that the scenes that we saw at the weekend don’t happen again.
“I think we need to be cognisant of the fact as well, there seems to be some sort of a blame game amongst certain cohorts saying young people are there and causing havoc.
“The failure of successive governments to deal with the housing crisis means that young people are in cramped, overcrowded conditions without gardens, without being able to say ‘let’s have a barbecue outside and invite our friends over’.
“That’s not the reality for young people today.”
Aontu leader Peadar Toibin said that young people have endured 15 months of “phenomenal sacrifices”.
“The Government manufactured the events that we saw on the streets of Dublin in the last number of nights,” he said.
“I can sell you a pint if you’re standing up, but if you’re sitting down at a table outside my pub in a regulated structured fashion, it’s illegal for me to sell you pints. It’s mind-bending.”
—Additional reporting by Press Association.