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Children used as human shield in riot with gardai

Women and children were used as human shields against gardai during a halting site riot in Dublin.

Two young fathers have been jailed for their part in the riot that saw garda cars pelted with missiles.

John Gavin and Douglas Purcell threatened to smash garda vehicles amid chaotic scenes after officers made a suspected firearm seizure.

Gavin was sentenced to nine months in prison after Dublin District Court heard he raised a large rock over his head and threatened to put it through a patrol car windscreen. Purcell got a six-month sentence for his own verbal threat.

Both defendants admitted charges of threatening to cause criminal damage, breach of the peace and throwing missiles in the incident at the unofficial halting site, next to Dublin Port Tunnel at Coolock Lane. Fathers-of-two, they are both already serving prison sentences.

Detective Garda Dominic McGrath told the court that gardai in Santry received a report from the traffic control room at Dublin Castle about a suspicious incident at the entrance to the tunnel.


Officers who went to the halting site to investigate were approached by members of the Travelling community, who were irate over what was happening. They verbally abused the gardai while the situation was still being monitored at the control centre. A large number of backup gardai went to the scene as the situation "got out of hand".

Missiles were thrown at their vehicles by the two defendants and the gardai were forced to withdraw. Gavin approached one of the patrol cars, raised a large rock over his head and ordered the garda to "move that f**king patrol car", or he would put the rock through the windscreen.

Women and children were then directed to block the patrol cars and sat down on the road outside to block traffic.

More reinforcements arrived and gardai managed to coax the women and children away. The incident was caught on CCTV. None of the missiles that were thrown struck any of the officers.

Purcell threatened one of the gardai that his car would be damaged if he did not move it from the site.

Gardai eventually withdrew and the accused were arrested days later.

The defendants' solicitor said they "put their hands up" in relation to the incident, but added that it had been "much ado about nothing" and the large garda presence might not have been needed "with the benefit of hindsight".

However, he accepted that the garda actions were warranted and the defendants' reactions were "completely over the top".


Detective Garda McGrath explained that gardai had gone there because they had seen someone take what appeared to be a firearm from a car and place it in an unoccupied caravan. The device turned out to be a battery-operated machine pellet gun that had been stolen.

It was when the gardai took it and tried to leave with it that the situation arose.

The court heard the defendants had 107 previous convictions between them.