The Garda Commissioner says the use of balaclavas by gardaí at a housing protest was not correct.
Drew Harris says that while the decision to use the fire retardant hood is one for the operational commander on the ground – if it’s used, it should be with a protective helmet.
He says that a directive has been issued today to re-enforce this requirement. Mr. Harris has requested a report on the event to see what lessons can be learned – he’s also condemned racist abuse one garda suffered.
Commissioner Drew Harris’ statement on Policing of the Protest at North Frederick Street, Dublin
“An Garda Síochána respects the right of people to protest peacefully.
An Garda Síochána’s role at such events is to facilitate lawful protest while protecting the rights of others to do their lawful work safely – in this case carrying out an order of the High Court.
Our objective with any such operation is to ensure the safety of the public. Every year, An Garda Síochána polices a wide-range of lawful protests in this manner.
In relation to this specific incident, whilst preserving peace and public order, a graduated response was taken in line with the prevailing circumstances.
At the start of this event, An Garda Síochána deployed three community policing officers to oversee the safe compliance of a High Court order.
As the atmosphere at the event grew more tense, a small number of public order officers were deployed to ensure public safety. The use of a fire retardant hood by public order officers is a matter for the operational commander on the ground and is designed to protect the safety of our members based on a risk assessment. However, the form of dress used at the event was not correct as it is policy that if it deemed necessary to use the hood then it should be used in tandem with a protective helmet. A directive has issued today from Deputy Commissioner, Policing & Security, to re-enforce this requirement to all personnel.
In addition, I have requested a report from Assistant Commissioner, DMR, to see what lessons can be learnt from the event.
Members of An Garda Síochána showed restraint in the face of physical and verbal abuse from a very small minority and I condemn the racist abuse suffered by an individual member of An Garda Síochána working at the event.
The people who had occupied the building left the building peacefully in accordance with the High Court order. Subsequent to this, a small crowd failed to leave the area despite repeated warnings from An Garda Síochána under the Public Order Act and five people were arrested.”