Home ireland Commissioner says gardaí will not ‘fall into trap’ of far-right protesters

Commissioner says gardaí will not ‘fall into trap’ of far-right protesters

Commissioner says gardaí will not ‘fall into trap’ of far-right protesters

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said gardaí “are not going to fall into the trap” of over-responding to far-right protests.

It comes after a number of anti-migrant protests around the country.

He said An Garda Síochána has a multi-tiered response to far-right protesters, including the investigation of certain individuals.

“We are also very mindful of our response to the threat posed by the far-right in respect of this,” he said.

“I’d say there’s two things, there’s two bits of their playbook that we can see that they want to achieve.

“One, they want to act on local fears, local concerns, and in effect gather up a crowd. And they’ve been successful on occasion. On other occasions they’ve been completely refuted.

“The other piece, and it’s a classic part of their playbook, is an over-response by the authorities of the State i.e. An Garda Síochána.

“We are not going to fall into that trap. This is a long-term placing strategy. We are here to work with consent with local communities, to build a consent around the housing of individuals who have sought international protection.

“So we are here for the long haul, and we’re taking a long view of these matters. Confrontation, which in effect plays into their hands, is a trap that we’re not going into.”

Mr Harris dismissed the characterisation of it being a “softly, softly” approach to the far right, which he said has been successful in distorting and “completely winds up” people’s fears over international protection applicants.

He said the “first point of call” is to resolve matters without enforcement but said enforcement is an option.

“The special detective unit is conducting investigations at all times of the material which is put online but also the activities of certain individuals,” he said.

He said gardaí have to be careful their response to protests is “proportionate”.

“We (police) hundreds of protests every year. We have a certain approach here in this country and it does work.”

Mr Harris said there is an active investigation into “serious disorder” at Sandwith Street in Dublin following an anti-migrant protest – after which a migrant camp was dismantled and set alight.

Asked if there was a garda presence at the scene when tents were burned, Mr Harris said the shelters were torched while gardaí were protecting counterprotesters elsewhere.

He said: “It’s not right to say there was nobody left behind. The gardaí were there, in effect, with the individuals who were mounting the initial protest.

“So, in effect, there was nobody then to look after that particular entry on Sandwith Street.

“But actually the policing priority was managing the protest.

“Individuals on the ground took the appropriate decisions.”

Mr Harris said a protest outside accommodation for international protection applicants in Co Clare was “managed successfully”.

He said gardaí were achieving “resolutions” there within 24 hours.

Mr Harris said gardaí were also present in Santry, Co Dublin, to “dispel fears and myths being propagated by individuals who have a malign purpose”.

He said hundreds of applicants have been housed successfully across the country.

“From my observations, right across the country we’ve seen applicants for international protection arrive and integrate successfully into their local communities and in the end make a real contribution,” he said.

“So that is the predominant story and also the dominant story of our citizens helping those individuals in their plight.”

He also said there is an active investigation into threats against a public representative and their family.

Mr Harris said the rise of the far right in Europe “hasn’t actually been replicated in Ireland” but a small number of active members are under investigation.

“The difficulty is they do tap into European-wide resources, they’re easily tapped into for them in terms of social media and the internet, and that’s our reality that there is a playbook,” he siad.

Minister for Justice Simon Harris said there is a “very clear line between protest and endangerment”.

Asked about the use of the Irish flag during protests, he said those involved “don’t own our flag”.

He said: “The law must apply in every single part of this country.

“I was struck by the fact that a very small number of people seeking to speak for Ireland, seeking to use our flag, did cause chaos or difficulty at the weekend.

“I’m also absolutely satisfied that the gardai have both the laws and the resources to address it.”

Asked about the blocking of roads by some demonstrators, the Minister said there is a democratic right to protest but “the impeding of people going about their business is not acceptable”.

He said there is a policing plan for protests that “cross the line”.

“Some of the scenes that we’ve seen in recent days in a number of locations have, in my view, been unedifying. They have been concerning and they have, in my view, gone further than protest,” he said.

Mr Harris said he will be seeking Government approval to increase the maximum sentence for people who assault gardaí and other frontline staff, including by ramming emergency vehicles.

He said Government is also “pursuing” body-cam legislation.