Nineteen arrested after crowds clash with police in Dublin for second night

Bottle and missiles thrown at gardai following ‘baton charge’ the previous night

Andy Gregory
Sunday 06 June 2021 19:50 BST
<p>A member of An Garda on Grafton street in Dublin's city centre</p>

A member of An Garda on Grafton street in Dublin's city centre

Nineteen people have been arrested in Dublin as crowds clashed with police for a second consecutive night.

People in Ireland have been told to enjoy an “outdoor summer” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but ahead of pubs and restaurants reopening on Monday as part of an easing of restrictions, large crowds have been congregating in the city centre.

Police, who have been patrolling popular drinking spots, said that the majority of those gathered in the city were socialising responsibly and “enjoying outdoor activity”. But officers said a smaller group was persistently involved in anti-social behaviour and public disorder.

Gardai said they were attacked with glass bottles and other missiles at various locations on Saturday night, while a number of criminal damage incidents occurred, including a bin being set on fire and a garda patrol vehicle being damaged. One member of the public not involved in the disorder was assaulted and taken to hospital.

Two members of An Garda Siochana also received treatment for injuries, the force said, after the gardai moved in to disperse crowds from Stephen’s Green, Temple Bar and South William Street between 7pm and 9pm. Several streets were sealed off, in one instance by gardai with riot shields.

In total, 19 people were arrested for public order offences, including two juveniles who were released and referred for the Juvenile Diversion Programme. Six were given a caution, one was released pending a summons and 10 people were charged with public order offences. They will appear in court at a later date.

The gardai had faced criticism for their response the previous night, with Paul Murphy of the socialist People Before Profit party describing footage on social media showing officers mounting a baton charge against “a group of people enjoying an 'outdoor summer’” as “absolutely outrageous”.

Fourteen people were arrested and one officer was hospitalised with a leg injury on Friday, gardai said, adding later that “batons were not drawn or used at any time” during their response on Saturday.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said that she had spoken to Garda commissioner Drew Harris to express her “deep alarm” at the scenes, saying: “An outdoor summer cannot mean baton charges on our streets. We need proper joined-up planning to facilitate safe social enjoyment and safety for gardai. All agencies must engage now.”

And Mairead Farrell, also of Sinn Fein, took aim at what she perceived to be failures in government regarding plans for hosting an outdoor summer – with prime minister Micheál Martin among politicians calling for better outdoor facilities on city streets, such as bins and toilets, after excessive litter was left by crowds last weekend. Some 150 portable toilets and 100 bins were installed in Dublin this weekend.

“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,” Ms Farrell said. “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.”

And Martin Harte, chief executive of the Temple Bar Company, accused the government of “mixed messages”, as he said: “The gardai are being used as private security for the policing of takeaway pints, and I don’t believe that is what a police force is for.”

While The Sunday Times reported that Mr Harte hoped the reopening of some 1,000 pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating on Monday would help the situation, he warned that if on-street drinking was not tackled it would send a message when tourism resumed that “Ireland is a great big public drinking space”.

Stating that young people have endured 15 months of “phenomenal sacrifices”, Aontu leader Peadar Toibin said: “The government manufactured the events that we saw on the streets of Dublin in the last number of nights.

“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.”

Following Saturday’s arrests, minister of state Hildegarde Naughton said that a small minority of people went out on both nights intending to cause trouble, telling RTE: “The gardai police by consent, they want to engage, educate people and, as a last resort, enforce.

“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 Monday’s reopening would see a “more managed approach”.

A gardai spokesperson said: “In support of government announcements on reopening the economy and society with a specific continuing emphasis on outdoor activity, An Garda Siochana will continue to patrol and manage crowds on public streets and spaces.

“While extra facilities are being provided by local authorities, An Garda Siochana appeals for consideration for other persons using the spaces, local residents and businesses.

“Where crowds gather gardai responsibility is preserving public order and preventing and investigating any criminal offence, which may occur.

“An Garda Siochana has been consistent from the start in our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, based on our tradition of policing by consent, An Garda Siochana will continue to focus on the approach of engage, explain and encourage the public, with enforcement only as a last resort.”

Additional reporting by PA

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