Monday 9 December 2019

Gardai probe theft of radio as officers fear for safety at rallies

Dermot O'Brien of the GRA
Dermot O'Brien of the GRA

Niall O'Connor and Paul Melia

GARDAI are investigating the theft of an officer's radio, allegedly stolen during a protest against the installation of water meters.

A hand-held radio was stolen during scuffles between protesters and gardai while Taoiseach Enda Kenny was opening a sports clinic in Northwood, Co Dublin on Wednesday. The incident sparked a security alert due to fears that protests are being infiltrated by dissident republican groups.

And Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said she was "alarmed" at some protests and plans to meet with acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan as gardai "cannot get on with their work".

"Tyres have been slashed, people have been jumping on vans, machinery has been damaged and gardai have been assaulted, it's all very serious," she told the Irish Independent.

The radio was disabled by officers attached to the IT unit at Garda Headquarters, and sparked warnings from the Garda Representative Association (GRA) that officers are becoming increasingly concerned for their safety.

GRA President Dermot O'Brien said members have been subjected to threats to their personal safety and property, both directly and online.

"Rank and file gardai do not make laws, and are required to pay the charges themselves," he said. "Members work with peaceful protesters, but this darker element is to be condemned. Gardai are increasingly concerned that the uniform no longer offers the protection of our democratic society."

The stark warning from the representative body comes on the back of a series of unruly protests in areas including Coolock, Santry and Phibsboro in Dublin. A number of ministers, including Leo Varadkar and Joan Burton, have criticised "fringe elements".

But Irish Water said the metering programme would continue as planned, saying 8,000 have been installed this week alone.

In a statement, the company said the installation programme had not been "cancelled or postponed", but that some works had been postponed as protests escalated.

"There have been a number of occasions where the protests have escalated at individual work sites and have impacted on the health and safety of workers on these sites, necessitating, in some instances, the withdrawal of our staff," it said.

"Irish Water would request that the contractor's staff be treated with dignity and be allowed to carry out their work in a safe and dignified manner."

Irish Independent

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