Gardai plan crackdown on troublemakers at protest
Gardai have warned troublemakers they will not be allowed to disrupt or hijack a peaceful street protest being organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in the centre of Dublin today.
Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy made it clear yesterday that contingency plans will be in place to deal with groups who refuse to obey the march stewards and attempt to stage their own demonstrations.
He said evidence would be gathered about any breaches of the law and the culprits would be prosecuted in the courts.
But he emphasised that the main focus of the policing arrangements was to ensure the safety of the crowd and facilitate the holding of a peaceful march from Wood Quay into O'Connell Street, culminating in a rally outside the GPO.
He had visited the Garda's Dublin metropolitan headquarters at Harcourt Square where Assistant Commissioner Michael Feehan was briefing his management team on the arrangements. The commissioner told the senior officers that the policing measures they deployed must be seen to be fair, strategic and proportionate.
But he warned that where the law was being broken, the gardai would act. It is expected that a number of garda public order units will be on stand-by to deal with any outbreak of violence or disorder but these will not be visible to the large body of protesters.
Gardai will also be aware, from previous demonstrations in the city, of the actions of members of the left wing socialist republican group, eirigi, Sinn Fein and dissident groups affiliated to the Real IRA, in clashes at the Department of Finance and outside the Dail.
Special Branch detectives will act as spotters on the streets to identify potential troublemakers and monitor behaviour.
Senior officers have been liaising with the leaders of a number of trade unions in advance of the march to work out the arrangements for the planned route.
During a visit to the Garda College yesterday, the garda commissioner addressed a number of officers who are being trained as public order commanders.
Mr Murphy said a comprehensive plan had been put in place to facilitate a peaceful march, to keep people and traffic moving in the city centre and to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
Chief Supt Michael O'Sullivan, who will have overall charge of the policing operation on the ground, said that in light of the large attendance expected by the organisers, it was important that everyone observed the instructions from Ictu stewards and gardai.
"We are also very conscious that normal business will continue in the city centre... A traffic management plan has also been drawn up to notify people travelling into the city of road closures", he added.
He said gardai would maintain a highly visible presence along the march route. Recent experience had shown that while it was possible for thousands of people to assemble and march in Dublin in a dignified and civil manner, there were individuals and groups who sought to exploit such events.
"I want to reassure the community that gardai are both alert to and prepared for this possibility," Chief Supt O'Sullivan added.