AN ANTI-lockdown demonstration was staged without serious incident in Cork as Gardaí mounted a major security operation in the city centre.
More than 700 people attended the event on St Patrick's Street which was organised by the Cork People's Convention (CPC).
Demonstrators carried placards warning: 'Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil', 'End the Lockdown', 'Freedom' and 'Rally for Truth.'
The event took place amid heavy security as Gardaí were determined to avoid a repeat of the violent scenes that marred an unconnected demonstration in Dublin last weekend and which left three Gardaí injured and dozens arrested.
Gardaí warned that the Cork demonstration - described by the CPC as "a peaceful assembly" and planned long before the Dublin event - was not exempt from current Covid-19 restrictions and those who attended in breach of Level Five controls risked being fined.
All traffic into Cork city was checked at an outer cordon for compliance to the 5km Level Five travel restriction - while a special security operation was mounted around St Patrick's Street and the city centre.
Additional Garda resources were drafted into the city for the security operation from other Cork divisions.
Special Garda public order units were on standby near the city centre but were ultimately not required.
Gardai also video-taped the entire demonstration while the Garda helicopter hovered overhead.
One arrest at lunchtime in Cork city centre - an individual caught with a canister of flammable liquid - was later determined to be totally unconnected to the demonstration and involved a street artist whose routine involved flaming torches.
CPC refused all requests for the demonstration to be cancelled, insisting it was a peaceful assembly and fully in accordance with Constitutional provisions.
CPC organisers warned that anyone intent on causing trouble was not welcome at the event - and urged respect for the Gardai and the city centre.
Spokesperson Diarmuid O'Cadhla said they had been threatened with arrest and fines with numerous supporters prevented from attending because of Garda checkpoints on the outskirts of the city.
Organisers admitted the crowd was far bigger than initial predictions.
He quoted John Lennon, to cheers from the large attendance, and said: "All I want to hear in the truth."
"We are gathered here for a peaceful assembly and I would impress upon everybody today to respect that. We are here to express ourselves on a major issue in Ireland today in a peaceful, respectful and civilised manner."
Another speaker, Paddy Bulman, said people were sick of corruption and authoritarianism in Ireland as well as the erosion of their freedoms.
"They are telling you they are afraid you will spread the virus - but what they are really afraid of is that you will spread the truth," he said.
Another speaker, Peter O'Donoghue, said the lockdown had caused immeasurable harm to people's lives, the social fabric of Ireland, the elderly and the economy.
Throughout the 45 minute event there were loud cheers of 'freedom' and 'truth' while the Government were repeatedly slated as 'traitors.'
As a precautionary measure, all city centre businesses dealing with takeaway alcohol suspended such sales for the duration of the demonstration.
One city centre premises, Dunnes Stores, erected protective timber hoardings over their shop windows.
The demonstration took place despite appeals from Cork business, political and cultural/charity leaders for it to be cancelled.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney used social media to appeal to Cork residents not to attend the event.
Lord Mayor of Cork Councillor Joe Kavanagh warned there were genuine concerns the rally could prove "a (virus) super spreader event."
Charity campaigner and Cork Penny Dinners operator, Caitríona Twomey, said people needed to put public health first and pleaded for the rally not to take place.
"This was not the time to be doing this. We all know what our rights are but it is not the time (for this event)."
Cork Business Association (CBA) President Eoin O'Sullivan said it was in everyone's interest for people to "stay the course" and help defeat the virus.
"We now have light at the end of the tunnel here that we are all working towards (with vaccines and business reopening)."
"We have worked so hard to get there along with the Government. Events like the anti-lockdown protest can delay that. People have closed their businesses down to protect public safety - have made so many sacrifices to protect public safety."
"Our concerns as an organisation is that we have worked so hard to minimise the spread of Covid-19 - many people have put their livelihoods on hold and have closed their businesses."
"I know people may be very frustrated but we need to stay the course to get out of lockdown sooner. A large number of people gathering (in a city or town) is a large risk of spreading Covid-19 which could result in a spike in cases and could then result in an extended lockdown which we really want to avoid."