MICHEAL MARTIN led the condemnation of the anti-lockdown protests that took place in Dublin city centre this past Saturday.
The Taoiseach said he “utterly condemns” the protests which he brnaded “an unacceptable risk to both the public and gardaí”.
In a statement, Martin said: “The large gathering, in the face of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, showed a complete lack of respect to the people who have made huge sacrifices during this pandemic.
“Nor can we tolerate the thuggish behaviour or attacks on gardai, who have the public’s utmost respect as they continue to protect and serve our society in difficult circumstances.
“There can be no justification for the march or the violence that unfolded, and I pay tribute to members of An Garda Siochana who moved quickly to make arrests and restore order.”
Martin’s concerns were echoed by Leo Varadkar with the Tánaiste taking to Twitter to express his disdain for the violent scenes witnessed in the Irish capital.
“‘Horrified to see this on our streets,” he wrote.
“Irish people have spent last year fighting COVID. There is no excuse for violence to Gardai or anyone. This behaviour by a selfish few undermines sacrifices that millions have made in the last 12 months.”
Varadkar told the Irish Mail on Sunday: “Freedom of speech is a human right and peaceful protest is part of that. This is not freedom of speech. It was a riot. There is no justification for using violence against the Gardai or anyone.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was similarly scathing in her assessment of the demonstrations.
She said: “The protest in Dublin is reckless and is a slap in the face to the people of this city and beyond who have made huge sacrifices over the last year. Shocking and disgraceful scenes.”
Elsewhere Green Party Deputy Leader Catherine Martin branded the chaos witnessed as “disturbing” while Labour leader Alan Kelly said it was “absolutely disgraceful, dangerous and morally reprehensible.”
Martin added: “Gardai are there to protect people and uphold the law. At this time, during this major unprecedented health crisis, we need unity and no repeat of these worrying events today.”
The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee also condemned the violence as “completely unacceptable”.
“I have spoken to the Garda Commissioner this evening and he has told me the disturbance in Dublin is being brought under control.
“I know there have been a number of arrests already today and a special court sitting is being arranged to make sure these law-breakers are prosecuted speedily. I understand fixed charge notices have also been issued to a number of people.
“I want to commend the courage and professionalism of the Gardai on duty today in Dublin who responded with great control and discipline in an extremely challenging situation.
“This situation was completely unacceptable and was an insult to so many who have worked so hard in the fight against Covid-19 and to those who have died.
“This mindless thuggery showed a wilful and blatant disregard for the public health rules which are needed to help us all and keep us safe.”
Maybe it’s time to take the far right seriously? Here’s a Fascist demo from this afternoon on Dublin’s Grafton St. Note the use of explosives & that they came armed. pic.twitter.com/pjmpRnZc6X
— Dr Robert Bohan Artist (@RobertBohan) February 27, 2021
The Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Fine Gael Higher Education Minister Simon Harris also spoke out against the protest.
Donnelly said: “Awful, appalling scenes in Dublin City Centre today. Millions here have spent the past year showing huge solidarity and fighting COVID. Our healthcare workers are exhausted. The measures we have in place are there to protect public health and keep us all safe. Thanks to Gardai.”
Harris said: “This was pure thuggery at large on the streets of Dublin today. It was not a protest. It was an attack on our all-out national effort. The disgraceful abuse directed at the gardaí is sickening and shameful.”