Tens of thousands to attend march

GARDAÍ will maintain a visible presence at today’s national demonstration in Dublin city centre with rally organisers expecting tens of thousands of protesters to attend.

Retailers said yesterday it would be “business as usual” for shops despite streets around the main route of the march being closed off by gardaí to traffic.

Large video screens will be set up for the mass of protesters expected on O’Connell Street outside the GPO where the trade union-led rally will address the march at its finish.

Riot garda units will be on alert but not near the main crowds and a number of banks and government buildings off the march route are expected to have a stronger policing presence.

The rally against government cuts is expected to draw the largest number of protesters onto the streets since more than 80,000 people marched over the public sector pension levy in February 2009.

Organisers ICTU have stressed that its members want a peaceful protest and have also organised more than 200 stewards to help guide and police the march.

Gardaí have held discussions with organisers and have put in place a policing plan to maximise crowd safety and keep traffic moving.

Chief Superintendent Michael O’Sullivan, who is overseeing the operation, said: “Recent experience has shown that while it is possible for thousands of people to assemble and march through the streets of Dublin in a dignified and civilised manner, there are individuals and groups who seek to exploit such events for their own ends.”

Garda sources stressed yesterday that members were prepared for any clashes or outbreak of violence, with the possibility that the rally may be hijacked by extreme political groups.

Video cameras will be used by gardaí on patrol while a helicopter presence overhead will allow the force to keep an eye on any flash points.

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