Saturday 20 January 2018

Garda chief to explain why Dáil protests descended into chaos

Protesters clash with gardaí as TDs try to leave Leinster House. Photo:Arthur Carron
Protesters clash with gardaí as TDs try to leave Leinster House. Photo:Arthur Carron
Tánaiste Joan Burton criticised the behaviour of some protesters
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan will today be quizzed over the policing arrangements put in place to deal with Wednesday's unruly demonstration outside Dáil Éireann.

Ms O'Sullivan will be asked to explain the decision by gardaí to allow hundreds of protesters to block the front gates of Leinster House during an anti-water charges demonstration.

Members of the Dáil's Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) are expected to ask Ms O'Sullivan about the level of garda resources available to deal with the protest.

TDs are deeply concerned about the decision not to cordon off the entrance of Leinster House which has been the norm for most large protests in recent months.

Amid chaotic scenes on Wednesday evening, a female garda officer was knocked unconscious after being struck with a traffic cone.

Two Labour Party senators, Mary Moran and Denis Landy, were forced to leave their cars after they were blocked from driving up Kildare Street by protesters.

Another Oireachtas member, former justice minister Alan Shatter, was forced to wait in his car for 15 minutes because the main Leinster House gate was blocked.

During this period, several demonstrators thumped and kicked the vehicle and hurled verbal abuse at the Fine Gael TD.

Mr Shatter described some of the actions by protesters as "thuggery".

Other Oireachtas members, from both the Government and Opposition sides, were harassed and taunted as the attempted to enter or leave the premises.

A sit-in protest on Kildare Street also caused traffic disruption.

The events caused deep alarm among the Oireachtas authorities and senior garda management was informed of the concern.

Tánaiste Joan Burton yesterday strongly criticised the behaviour of some demonstrators and condemned the actions that led to the injury of the garda.

"The right to peaceful protest is essential to democracy. But when a garda is injured and left requiring medical treatment, nobody can seriously call that a peaceful protest," the Labour Party leader told the Irish Independent.

"The conduct of those who threw items and engaged in intimidating conduct last night - towards both members of the force and members of the national parliament - should be condemned by any right-minded person, including any politicians who helped organise the protest," she added.

Meanwhile, the Garda Press Office last night released new details about the protest.

A spokesman said that officers arrested one man, aged in his 30s, for public order offences following a protest that took place after 3pm.

"The man was brought to Kevin Street Garda Station and later charged in connection with this investigation. He was released from custody and is due to appear before court at a later date," he added.

Gardaí said a separate and planned 'Anti-Water' protest then took place on Kildare Street between 6pm-8pm. This protest was peaceful.

"Shortly before 8.30pm a number of protesters turned hostile as members of the Oireachtas attempted to leave the grounds of Leinster House.

"A number of missiles were directed at gardaí and those vehicles leaving Dáil Éireann. A female member of An Garda Síochána suffered head injuries when struck by one of the missiles.

"The garda was taken to St James's Hospital with non-life threatening injuries," said the spokesman.

Meanwhile, the water bill that stoked the latest protests was passed by the Dáil last night by 63 votes to 34 after a walk-through vote.

The bill obliges tenants to pay their water charges and prevents householders from benefiting from the sale of their home unless they have paid the water fees.

Irish Independent

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