Pair picketing over bridge arrested by gardaí

Two protesters picketing against the construction of a new bridge in the centre of Kilkenny were arrested yesterday by gardaí under the Public Order Act.

Pair picketing over bridge arrested by gardaí

Both men were briefly held at the garda station in Kilkenny before being released without charge and files are now being prepared for the DPP.

The men are part of a round-the-clock protest held near Green’s Bridge in Kilkenny since work on the new €4m bridge started over five weeks ago.

Gardaí have been present on a number of occasions during that time to escort equipment and materials being brought on-site by contractors working on the Central Access Scheme (CAS) road project for Kilkenny County Council.

However, yesterday was the first time arrests were made.

One of the men arrested, Mark Stewart, said later he told gardaí he thought the arrests were “unlawful” as the protesters felt they had legal cause to be present on the footpaths near Green’s Bridge, at the entrance to the construction site.

“Our aim is not to block trucks,” he said. “Our aim is to peacefully protest on the footpath.”

Mr Stewart said he has never been arrested before but was “treated very well” by the gardaí involved. “The handcuffs were a bit tight but that was it. It wasn’t really a big deal. I went straight back to the site [after his release] and just had a cup of tea.” Protesters said that the other person arrested had Asperger Syndrome and his father had to be called to speak to gardaí.

Superintendent Padraig Dunne said this person was released into the custody of his father after a “minimal” amount of time.

Both of the people arrested were only held for a short time, he said.

The operation took place at about 9am yesterday when at least 20 gardaí arrived at the entrance to the construction site to escort trucks which were carrying building material.

Mr Stewart said the gardaí involved had Wexford divisional badges on their uniforms.

“Protestors call on local Kilkenny gardaí to police their own patch and to have proper mediation with protestors, to use their knowledge of local people. What has happened here today has left people disappointed with the Gardaí’s approach to peaceful protest,” he said.

He called on the garda superintendent to “resolve the issue before someone is injured or worse”.

Campaigners against the CAS say it will cause irreversible damage to parts of Kilkenny’s medieval core while the council, and others in favour of the project, say it is necessary to relieve traffic congestion and to allow new development in the city centre.

Mark Stewart said yesterday that the arrests won’t prevent the protest from continuing.

“Nothing has changed really, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

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