Thursday 23 February 2017

Dublin street in lockdown over fears that angry protesters will target first day of Dáil

Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Garda crowd control barriers on Molesworth Street today for the resumption of the Dail.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Garda crowd control barriers on Molesworth Street today for the resumption of the Dail. Photo: Tony Gavin
Garda crowd control barriers on Molesworth Street today for the resumption of the Dail. Photo: Tony Gavin
Garda crowd control barriers on Molesworth Street today for the resumption of the Dail. Photo: Tony Gavin
Garda walk along a deserted Molesworth Street today on the resumption of the Dail. Photo: Tony Gavin
Garda crowd control barriers on Molesworth Street today for the resumption of the Dail. Photo: Tony Gavin
Garda crowd control barriers on Molesworth Street today for the resumption of the Dail. Photo: Tony Gavin

Gardai shut down Molesworth Street in Dublin city centre today over fears that angry protesters would strike again as the Dáil resumed after its summer break.

From late last night gardaí constructed a rigid steel barrier to thwart any potential trouble.

Joe McNamara. Photo: Courtpix
Joe McNamara. Photo: Courtpix

Fearing a repeat of previous disruption officers were taking no chances.

In 2010 gardaí and Leinster House security were taken by surprise when Galway man Joe McNamara (41) drove a cement truck up Molesworth Street and towards the gates of Leinster House.

The terms 'Toxic Bank' and 'Anglo' were painted in red letters on the truck's sides.

Mr McNamara cut the brake lines on the truck after stopping the vehicle, making it impossible to move.

It remained on the street blocking the traffic for hours. Minor damage was caused to the paintwork on the gates of Leinster House.

Mr McNamara, of Dun na Carraige, Blackrock, Co Galway, owed Anglo Irish Bank €7.5m at the time.

He was later found not guilty of criminal damage or dangerous driving at Dublin District Court.

Afterwards he said he was happy with the outcome. "This was not about publicity, it was to make a protest," he said.

In December the same year the ‘Anglo Avenger’ struck again by parking a cherry picker, emblazoned with protest slogans, at the gates of the Dáil Eireann on the morning before the Budget announcement.

As austerity bit hard and taxes such as USC and water charges were introduced, the return of the Dail after the summer break became a magnet for protests and large crowds would gather with placards chanting slogans and disrupting traffic as they vented their fury on the politicians inside Leinster House.

In 2013 three people were arrested when the Dail resumed after its summer recess, and three others were injured and brought to St James' Hospital.

Protesters also blocked access to O’Connell Bridge that year resulting in traffic gridlock and commuter mayhem.

Protesters were repelled with pepper spray by gardaí outside the Dáil, and scuffles broke out when they rushed the Garda barriers set up on Molesworth Street.

Groups protesting that year included Anti-Eviction Ireland, Pensioners Against Cuts, Irish Republican Voice and the People’s Assembly, which consists of trade union, civil society and political organisations.

But there seemed little expectation of any trouble when by 9.30am there was no protesters evident.

But garda sources said they were conscious of the fact that there would be a gathering by anti water charge and anti austerity protesters outside the Children’s Court in Smithfield at 10am as a verdict in the trial of a youth accused of the false imprisonment of former Tanaiste Joan Burton at the Jobstown protest of November 2014 was expected.

It was unclear if this gathering could become mobile and make its way to the Dail at a later time.

From the elaborate and reinforced barrier three cranes could be spotted at two construction sites on Molesworth Street, a sign of an improving economy.

Yards from the barrier outside Leinster House the remains of a bouquet of flowers could be seen on the steps of the building where homeless man Jonathan Corrie died on December 1 2014.

Meanwhile, across the Liffey and outside the Children’s Court in Smithfield Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy used a loudhailer to encourage a crowd of 60 protesters such as ‘Joanie in your ivory tower, this is called people power’ and ‘Jobstown innocent - Labour guilty’.

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