Gangland criminal Wayne Bradley and a number of associates have joined anti-migrant protests in recent weeks, as security sources warned the "potential for violence" has increased.
Bradley from Finglas, who is in his 40s and has multiple convictions, including for a botched cash van raid with his brother and fellow gangland criminal Alan Bradley, has attended local anti-migrant rallies in Dublin in recent weeks.
Protests have broken out across the country as the migrant crisis worsens, and Garda sources say the profile of those joining them is "shifting". Sources point specifically to a number of protests attended by gangland members, and those willing to carry out violence against migrants.
"The potential for violence only increases with these people there," said one source.
Protests in recent weeks have been increasingly contentious following a number of false rumours spread.
In Dublin city centre, gardaí are investigating whether a case of criminal damage to a former school on Sherrard Street was carried out due to rumours, later denied by the Department of Integration, that it was to be used by refugees.
Gardaí also believe a white Irish man was involved in an alleged sexual assault on a woman in north Dublin — and not migrants as has been repeatedly claimed by right-wing agitators.
The false claims about the attack have fuelled and heightened anti-refugee protests in Finglas in recent days. The alleged incident occurred in the early hours of last Friday, after the woman was dropped off on Cappagh Road.
A large number of local women, along with some children, entered Finglas Garda Station after and demanded answers.
A number of high-level sources have confirmed to thethat gardaí are following a “definite line of inquiry” on the alleged attack and are looking to speak to a white Irish male from outside Dublin in relation to it. The involvement of migrants or refugees has been ruled out.
It is understood that Wayne Bradley became involved in the protests following that incident.
Separately, a number of prominent males have led protests that have become increasingly hostile and abusive towards gardaí — with these same people threatening to evict gardaí from Finglas Garda Station on Wednesday evening and to “lock down” main routes in the area.
These protesters have been constantly alleging that refugee men are “rapists” and that they pose an extreme danger to local women and children, and have repeatedly claimed migrants were involved in Friday’s alleged attack.
Some of the organisers have called on people to bring weapons, even guns, to protests, which initially started over renewed attempts by the authorities to use a vacant factory in Finglas to accommodate Ukrainian refugees.
While gardaí are eager not to give oxygen to the right-wing organisers, sources do admit that local management and frontline members are on alert for an escalation in the protests, with another planned for Wednesday evening.
At a meeting of the Dublin City Council joint policing committee on Monday, assistant commissioner Angela Willis said there had been a sharp increase in the number of protests in the first month of this year.
In all of 2021, gardaí policed 395 protests. In 2022, this dropped to 307. However, so far in January, they have policed 64 protests, Ms Willis said.
The senior Garda said that these protests sometimes involve ensuring competing rights are upheld.
She said gardaí may not necessarily intervene in a particular instance, they may investigate the matter and “it doesn’t mean action won’t follow in the future”.
She said a balanced approach is essential.
Meanwhile, opposition TDs have suggested the Government should appoint an immigration tsar, or a new body similar to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to deal with racist and anti-refugee sentiment.
Labour leader Ivana Bacik revealed that the gardaí had to be called during a townhall event organised by her party in Drogheda after anti-refugee protesters "invaded and disrupted" the event.