Gardaí have warned some of the organisers of tomorrow’s planned anti-lockdown rally in Cork city that they could face a criminal investigation if it goes ahead.
A "substantial operational policing plan”, which includes public order units, has now been prepared amid fears the event could be hijacked by those intent on violence.
The violent scenes at a rally in Dublin last weekend have informed the preparation of the policing plan for Cork City on Saturday, a senior Garda spokesman said.
As well as divisional and regional Garda resources, national resources have also been made available.
Uniform gardaí will be on patrol as usual, and will be enforcing the public health regulations, adopting the ‘four Es’ approach – engage, educate, encourage, and enforcement.
But members of the Garda public order unit will be on standby and ready for rapid deployment, if required.
“Public order capability will be available as part of a graduated response,” the spokesman confirmed.
He stressed, however, that shops and businesses allowed to open under level 5 restrictions will continue to operate, and that the city centre will be open for people visiting for an essential reason, or who are exercising within their 5km.
But he added: “The message from An Garda Síochána is simple. Covid-19 is still a public health pandemic.
“We are still seeing deaths, there are still people in ICUs and in our hospitals with this virus, our doctors and nurses are still under pressure.
He said citizens have a duty to follow the law and gardaí will be there to enforce the law "in the best way possible".
“We will manage this in a peaceful way but we have certain powers under the Health Act and we will use them where appropriate.”
A person outside their home on a non-essential journey is liable for a €100 fine. If a person found in breach of the Public Health Act then fails to comply with a Garda direction to return home, they are potentially committing a second offence, and could face court.
The Peoples’ Convention has said it is behind the anti-lockdown rally on Saturday.
Former county councillor and anti-water charges campaigner Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, said he had been appointed a spokesperson by the organisers.
He described the event as a “peaceful assembly”, which he said was protected by the Constitution, and which “everyone should attend”.
“We have already condemned the mindless violence of a tiny few in Dublin last Saturday, which damaged the work of an otherwise great peaceful public display of opposition to the lockdown.”