Anti-lockdown protestors have been 'galvanised' by events on Grafton St, warns conspiracy expert

Anti-lockdown protestors have been 'galvanised' by events on Grafton St, warns conspiracy expert

Gardaí are continuing their search for a man who discharged a firework at close range during Saturday's protest in Dublin city centre.

Anti-lockdown and conspiracy groups and individuals have been “galvanised” by last Saturday’s protest on Dublin’s Grafton Street and further demonstrations look likely, an anti-extremism researcher has said.

Aoife Gallagher, who monitors disinformation online for a London think-tank, said she was “very concerned” at the spread of conspiracy theories among Irish people across social media.

The analyst for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue said that while these groups were still quite small in Ireland, that society needs to “get a hold” on them now before they continue to grow.

Gardaí examine planned protests

A protest in Cork this weekend and another on St Patrick’s Day in Dublin are being examined by gardaí.

It comes as gardaí continue their search for a man who recklessly discharged a firework at close range at gardaí at Saturday's protest.

Two properties were searched during the day and a quantity of fireworks were seized.

One garda suffered a fractured ankle and a perforated eardrum, with senior garda sources saying it was “just pure luck” a garda, or an innocent bystander, was not seriously injured.

The suspect is said to be part of a group from a south Dublin area that “travel in a pack”.

Garda sources described them as “opportunist hoodlums” who may have used the protest — or, possibly, were used by others — to attack gardaí.

Garda representatives speak out

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is due to meet with the two frontline garda associations on Wednesday following calls for such from the Garda Representative Association.

Ms Gallagher told the Irish Examiner the reaction on social media among anti-lockdown groups and conspiracy theorists appeared bullish.

“The reaction for the most part seems that they are galvanised by it and are more intent than ever to prove their point,” she said.

She said there was talk of a protest outside RTÉ in Donnybrook on St Patrick’s Day and that, in a bid to avoid last Saturday’s violence, conduct sit-down protests.

'Conspiracy theory rabbit hole'

She said the people involved in the anti-lockdown protests are “down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole” and believe the Government is actively trying to destroy their lives.

She said that, while there did not appear to be signs that the far-right National Party was involved in organising Saturday’s violence, the party was being “constantly promoted” on social media platform, Telegram.

“I’m very concerned," she said. "I still do think these movements are pretty small in Ireland, but I think we need to get a hold on it before it goes any further.” 

Facebook removes group

Meanwhile, the Facebook group which organised Saturday's protest has been removed from the social media site for violating its rules. 

It is understood Facebook is in touch with gardaí about the matter.

Earlier, Garda Damien McCarthy, GRA representative for Dublin South Central, requested an urgent meeting with the Commissioner and Justice Minister Helen McEntee on the risk and injuries to his members and the need for more resources and to be pushed up the Covid vaccination list.

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