Micheal Martin slams ‘thuggish behaviour’ of protesters

Cate McCurry
Gardai restrain a protester dring an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin city centre.
Gardai restrain a protester dring an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin city centre.

A number of people have been arrested as hundreds of protesters took part in an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin.

Protesters clashed with Irish police as they marched through the city centre and attempted to make their way to St Stephen’s Green park.

There was a heavy garda presence around the city centre ahead of the protest, which started at around 2pm.

Hundreds of people who were not wearing face masks took part in the demonstration.

Gardai used batons to push protesters away from the park.

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Videos of the protest shows a demonstrator point a firework at gardai before it went off, while other missiles and items were thrown at gardai.

Protesters were prevented from gathering in the park after the Office of Public Works closed the gates to the public.

The city’s tram operator said that its services would not be operating at the St Stephen’s Green stop because of the protest.

Ireland’s Minister for Further and Higher Education condemned the anti-lockdown protest.

Simon Harris tweeted: “Pure thuggery on the streets of Dublin today.

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“It’s not a ‘protest’. It’s an attack on our national effort.

“The abuse directed at the Gardai is sickening and shameful. Disgraceful.

“Thoughts with the Gardai and their families.”

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond slammed the violent scenes.

“From the outset, this protest was ill-advised, fuelled by conspiracy theories and championed by individuals seeking to manipulate the genuine fears of many vulnerable individuals,” he said.

“It was disgraceful to see this protest descend into violent scenes with brave members of An Garda Siochana subjected to intolerable physical and verbal abuse.

“Some of the eye witness footage circulating is extremely disturbing and every public representative should condemn these awful scenes.

“The footage appears to show a lit firework being thrown at members of the gardai by one protester, which is truly shameful.

“These brave men and women risk their lives every day in the service of the people of our State and what they were subjected to today is utterly appalling.”

A spokesman for An Garda Siochana said: “A number of traffic diversions and other policing measures are currently in place in Dublin this afternoon, Saturday 27th February 2021 in response to a demonstration in the city centre area.

“A policing plan has been implemented and An Garda Siochana will provide a full update when this operation has concluded.”

Meanwhile, the head of the HSE said the “great signs” of the coronavirus vaccine starting to reduce transmission is giving healthcare staff a second wind.

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Paul Reid said that while the country is winning in its battle in reducing the spread of the virus, he warned it is “not over yet”.

The number of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 has been reducing in recent weeks but health experts are concerned that infection rates are not dropping at a faster rate.

Ireland is facing its ninth week of Level 5 restrictions.

Mr Reid tweeted on Saturday: “Continued improvement today in those hospitalised, 550, and in ICU, 135, with Covid-19.

“Our healthcare teams are exhausted.

“But getting their vaccination and the great signs of it reducing transmission is giving us all a second wind.

“We are winning, it’s just not over yet.”

On Friday night, the Government added 13 more countries to its list in which travellers arriving from the locations have to undergo mandatory isolation for 14 days.

Coronavirus – Wed Feb 24, 2021
A woman walks past a mental health-related mural in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The countries have all been flagged to be at high risk of Covid-19 infection.

They include Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The Government is to introduce mandatory quarantine at designated facilities in the coming weeks.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly brought legislation to the Dail earlier this week to bring in mandatory quarantine.

“Once the Bill has passed through all stages in the Oireachtas, it will be referred to the President for his consideration,” Mr Donnelly added.

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“Subject to the Bill becoming law, it is the Government’s intention to commence the operation of mandatory quarantine facilities as soon as possible.”

A National Oversight Group for Variants of Concern (VOCS) has been set up to monitor and advise about the challenges posed by VOCs.

On Friday, a further 29 people who had tested positive for coronavirus died.

Another 776 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were also announced.

As of February 23, 373,280 doses of the coronavirus vaccine had been administered in Ireland.

This includes 238,841 first doses and 134,439 second doses.