16 arrested at anti-lockdown protests for breaches of Covid-19 regulations

Michelle Devane, James Ward and David Young, PA
·3-min read

Sixteen people have been arrested at anti-lockdown protests in Dublin for failing to comply with public health guidelines, gardai said.

A massive Garda security operation is under way to prevent planned lockdown protests to mark St Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

By 3pm, gardai said 13 men and three women had been arrested in connection with the events in the capital and failure to follow Covid-19 public health regulations.

Ten people have been charged and were due to appear before a sitting of Dublin District Court on Wednesday afternoon.

Many of the arrested were in Dublin city centre where protesters arrived in small groups outside the GPO on O’Connell Street.

Coronavirus – Wed Mar 17, 2021
Five-year-old Willow O’Brien watches on as gardai speak to members of the public on O’Connell Street in Dublin city centre ahead of a planned anti-lockdown protest (Brian Lawless/PA)

About 100 anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protesters, the majority of whom were not wearing face masks, gathered in Herbert Park in Ballsbridge carrying banners and posters.

Campaigners also congregated outside national broadcaster RTE in Donnybrook in the south of the city chanting and carrying anti-vaccine posters. They were told by gardai that they were in breach of Covid-19 health regulations.

Coronavirus – Wed Mar 17, 2021
A heavy Garda presence at the headquarters of RTE in Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

Many of the demonstrators voiced their disappointment at the turnout.

Several protest events were planned via social media, by disparate groups in different locations in Dublin city centre.

By late afternoon a number of protesters had gathered at certain sites across the city but the crowds were not as large as had been anticipated on social media.

More than 2,500 gardai have been deployed at checkpoints and arterial routes across the country.

Much of the focus is in the capital amid fears that anti-lockdown activists would seek to use the public holiday to demonstrate against coronavirus restrictions.

There were ugly scenes close to Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green last month, when gardai were attacked with fireworks during disturbances at a lockdown protest.

Coronavirus – Sat Feb 27, 2021
Protesters and gardai clashing during an anti-lockdown protest (Damian Eagers/PA)

Gardai are patrolling roads in the city and people are being asked for the reason for their journey to establish whether is it essential.

Personnel from the national Garda units such as the dog unit, the mounted unit, air support and public order, have been deployed.

Checks are also being conducted on public transport over the course of St Patrick’s Day.

Gardai are stopping people at bus stations and Luas stops to ensure they are not breaking Covid-19 regulations.

On Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Garda Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon said: “This has not been a normal St Patrick’s Day.

“I acknowledge the huge level of compliance and social responsibility demonstrated today.

“I appeal to the public to continue this effort into this evening, please do not engage in house gatherings or parties or congregate in public spaces and amenities.”