Gardaí are investigating whether an “extremely nasty” right-wing protest in north Dublin crossed the line into criminality.
A number of gardaí who were ensuring safe entry and exit into an official meeting on the possible housing of Ukrainian refugees in Finglas on Thursday night were subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse by a group of around 50 adults, mainly masked and hooded men.
Officers are examining if the behaviour of certain individuals in the protest breached criminal laws, including the public order act. One of the gardaí outside the entrance to Finglas Youth Resource Centre recorded the protest and several protesters also filmed it and posted clips online.
Garda members had been supervising a march in Finglas on Thursday evening, which followed on from a larger protest, led by the same men, on Monday.
While the protest was initially co-operative with gardaí, it quickly turned hostile. One of the leaders was said by gardaí to be “extremely abusive” and to have remarked to gardaí that the “rules have changed”.
The march altered its planned route a number of times and stopped outside the offices of Social Democrats co-leader and local TD Róisín Shortall and shouted.
Gardaí noted that while some of the protesters were women and children, with a few local youths hanging around, around 50 of them were men, the majority “hooded and masked”.
The group marched to the resource centre, where the Department of Equality and Integration was hosting a meeting with other agencies and local politicians regarding the possibility of using an old factory to house Ukrainian refugees.
Previous attempts to do so were halted when the site was subject to criminal damage towards the end of 2022. Misogynistic abuse was hurled at Ms Shortall as she entered the resource centre.
Clips of the protest show one of the leaders saying that something nearly “sparked off” at Monday’s protest but that he calmed things down, but that “the time is coming” when he would not be able to stop them from doing the “right thing”.
He said the assembled gardaí were going to “burn in hell” with the politicians and that when people were going to stand up, the gardaí were “going to be the fucking first to go down”. But the speaker added that he didn’t want anything to happen to the gardaí.
“He was careful enough to say that,” said one garda source.
One avenue gardaí are examining is under Section 6 of the Public Order Act 1994, where it is an offence for any person in a public place “to use or engage in any threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or being reckless as to whether a breach of the peace may be occasioned”.
Gardaí will examine their own footage and what was on mobile phones and was circulated online. It is likely they will seek the advice of the DPP before conducting any arrests, to see if the necessary threshold has been reached.
Officers were very concerned at the protest on Monday, which attracted between 400 and 500 people, mainly masked men.
Gardaí believe protest leaders are trying to provoke gardaí into an intervention, such as an arrest, during the demonstrations, which they can record live and circulate. Some garda sources are concerned that “sooner or later, things are going to blow up” from the protests.