Wed, 17 Mar, 2021 – 06:30
Gardaí in Dublin are bracing themselves for a “difficult” St Patrick’s Day as they grapple with up to eight separate protests and events due to take place in the city.
Garda sources said the events involve different groups which are not expected individually to attract large numbers, but said it was not clear if many protests will attempt to join up.
Two protests are expected to meet up at RTÉ headquarters — one of them starting at the Spire and marching out to Donnybrook, with the second protest assembling there later, with indications of a “party” somewhere afterwards.
Senior officers say there are “unknown” factors that could determine the potential for clashes today, including whether or not local troublemakers, teen gangs, or far-right groups will latch on to the events.
In addition, gardaí point to the very good weather forecast — and the draw on people to go outdoors — combined with the consumption of alcohol.
One experienced senior garda estimated there was a “low to moderate” threat of violence and that he did not expect sizeable numbers to gather at each event.
“Groups will turn up and leave a mark, but I don’t think there will be violence to any great degree,” he said. “I’d not rule out combustion here and there.
Feral teen gangs getting into town could exercise us a bit.”
While the bulk of protests are broadly anti-lockdown events, there are other protests being held, including a cannabis reform one later today and a rave mooted in Dublin or Kildare.
Gardaí have previously flagged concerns regarding house parties or drink-fuelled gatherings at parks.
“The protests involve disparate groups and it’s not clear if they are talking to each other or not,” said a source.
“There are a few unknowns: will hoodlums, teen gangs, or right-wing groups kick off? Will the protests come together and will there be any counter-protests? There is no indication of that at the moment.”
Garda HQ said that 2,500 gardaí are on duty nationwide today and sources said that up to 2,000 will be in Dublin over a 24-hour period.
“There will be a significant garda presence, but it certainly has the potential to be a difficult day, a long day for members,” said a source.
Some 200 uniformed gardaí will be in Dublin City centre, backed up by three public order units, one of which is likely to be prepared in ‘hard hat’ or full riot gear mode. The units are likely to be kept in vans until, and if, they are needed. “Spotter teams” will be deployed.
Checkpoints are being set up on major arteries into the city and along transport hubs to discourage and prevent unreasonable travel into the city.
“They are throwing the kitchen sink at this,” said a garda. “They have been layering this with huge resources, so they are prepared.”