Gardaí made a number of arrests for public order offences in Cork City last night as part of their increased patrols for Covid-19 compliance.
In scenes that are likely to alarm public health officials and politicians facing calls for the country to move swiftly out of Level 5 restrictions, large numbers of people have been gathering in Cork City centre tonight in what one garda described as "a carnival atmosphere".
The footage was shot by charity worker Ali Hamou, showing large groups of people, many without masks, thronging Grand Parade in Cork City centre tonight.
Mr Hamou, who volunteers with the One Human Community charity, which conducts soup runs at weekends, said he took the footage at 8pm.
It shows people, many without masks, milling around Grand Parade, and some skateboarding. At one point a garda car appears.
Mr Hamou said it was a similar story last weekend in the city.
"We will never get out of this lockdown if we keep doing this," he said.
Mr Hamou said he appreciated many people out on the streets were young, but he added that many appeared to be drunk and were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
He said of the street area in Cork city where he was: "[there was] over a thousand people, easy."
What is captured in the footage was corroborated by a garda source familiar with activity in the city centre this weekend, who said there was a "carnival atmosphere" driven by takeaway alcohol and which placed officers in a difficult position due to the sheer number of people on the streets.
"Last night [Friday] was probably one of the busiest nights we have had since the beginning of the whole Covid thing," the garda said, adding of the scenes on Saturday evening, "it seems to have built on that.
"There seems to be a kind of carnival atmosphere taken on."
The garda said people were congregating outside pubs serving takeaway alcohol, and that the recent turning on of the Christmas lights had proved an added attraction.
It's understood large groups of people gathered in a number of city centre spots.
The Garda said there had been no major incidents and that most people were very compliant when asked to move on, but that policing such a situation presented major difficulties for gardaí on the ground.
Speaking in response to events in Cork City Centre on Saturday evening, Labour Party Cllr John Maher and Labour Local Area Representative Peter Horgan called for the Garda Commissioner to come to Cork this week and address resourcing issues for front line Gardai.
Cllr Maher and Mr Horgan said: “Two nights in a row now there have been significant gatherings, seemingly intent to cause disorder for the sake of disorder.
"I have reports of similar gatherings from suburbs around the City and yet no physical presence due to new Garda setups.
"The Commissioner needs to come to Cork this week and attest to the significance of the force here in the city, the Minister for Justice must allocate funding for extra Cork City gardaí located in suburbs stations and on our streets.”