Garda assaulted and man arrested at asylum seeker protest at Columb Barracks in Mulligar

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Eamon Dillon

A garda was assaulted and a man arrested during a protest at on Friday night as asylum seekers were brought by bus to Co Westmeath.

The alleged assault is reported to have happened at around 9pm as gardaí asked protestors to move away and to allow staff to enter the Columb Barracks property in Mullingar.

Gardaí confirmed in a statement an officer was assaulted but that he did not require hospital treatment.

A man in his 20s was arrested for public order offences shortly after midnight as the protest continued until 1.30am on Saturday.

According to a garda spokesperson, the man was later released and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Earlier on Friday, protestors stopped a bus carrying international protection applicants from entering the barracks by blocking the gates. The bus then left. An earlier bus had been able to enter without any problems.

A protest has been ongoing outside the former barracks by a group opposed to the plan since it was announced in February by the Department of Integration.

The plan is for 120 asylum seekers were to be accommodated in 15 tents at the barracks which closed in Mullingar in 2012.

The 25-acre site, in the centre of the town, is now used by up to 30 community groups.

In a statement on Friday, the Department of Integration said it was aware of an ongoing incident at Columb Barracks, and is liaising with An Garda Síochána.

"Over the past year, communities across Ireland have demonstrated great solidarity and welcome to those who have come here seeking refuge," the statement said.

"The department strongly condemns any attempt to promote division and hostility."

Since its official closure as an Irish Defence Forces base in 2012, Columb Barracks has been a home for groups that assist those with mental health issues and vulnerable youth among many others.

The latest plans, aided by the Department of Defence, is for both Ukrainian and other international refugees to be housed at the facility and will be used for just 12 months.

While the tents are in use, the department will procure and install portable prefabricated buildings for more medium-term use, the Department of Integration previously said.