A champion of Cork’s homeless and the Lord Mayor have both issued appeals today urging people not to attend a planned anti-lockdown rally in the city centre tomorrow.
Catriona Twomey of Cork’s Penny Dinners and Cllr Joe Kavanagh, who has also called on the event organisers to cancel it, made their pleas as several city centre publicans said they won’t be serving takeaway alcohol tomorrow.
Mr Kavanagh said the event is likely to create a large gathering of people.
“I’m not a medical expert and don’t claim to be but we’re all guided by medical experts who actually know what they are talking about,” he said.
“What they have quite clearly stated is that any large gathering should be avoided and tomorrow qualifies as a large gathering, so I’m calling on whoever is organising this gathering to please cancel it.”
Ms Twomey said she and her team of volunteers have seen first-hand the pain and destruction wrought by the virus over the last year.
“I’m asking those who are going to protest to think of those who are struggling,” she said.
“Let’s stick together and ride it through as best we can. We are doing it to keep you safe as well as keeping ourselves safe. If you really want to do something then think about us and stay home.”
But event spokesman Diarmaid Ó Cadhla said it will go ahead.
“It will be held, and it will be a peaceful assembly and people are entitled to attend that,” he said.
“If people are symptomatic, they should stay at home. If they feel they are vulnerable, they should stay at home.
“We will issue public health guidance ahead of the gathering about social distancing and wearing masks but if prosecutions follow because people want to attend a peaceful assembly and speech, that would be a scandalous disregard of our rights.
“It would be easier for me personally if I went off fishing tomorrow but I just couldn’t live with myself for remaining silent while our rights are being eroded.”
The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) confirmed that following an approach from gardaí asking for their co-operation around the management of the rally, its city centre members have agreed to discontinue the takeaway alcohol service.
Chair of the VFI’s Cork branch, Michael O’Donovan, said the handful of his members who were offering this service during Level 5 restrictions were willing to play their part.
“We were asked to consider not selling takeaway alcohol and we felt it was the prudent and responsible thing to do” he said.
“We have been closed for almost a year, and we felt that if we can do something to contribute to minimising the risk of the spread of the virus, or minimise the risk of a delay to the re-opening of the economy and our sector, then it was the right thing to do.
Gardaí have prepared “a substantial operational plan” amid fears the event could be hijacked by those intent on violence.
A spokesman pointed to the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No.10) Regulations 2020, and said regulation eight places restrictions on individuals organising relevant events outdoors, while regulation four places restrictions on travel outside the home except for a reasonable excuse.
“Attending an event organised in breach of these regulations is not a reasonable excuse to travel outside your home,” a spokesman said.
“Where An Garda Síochána can identify potential organisers of such events, An Garda Síochána has and will engage and advise those organisers as to the current public health regulations, their responsibilities and potential consequences.
“A decision as to whether any protest takes place or not is a matter for the organisers, in full knowledge of the current public health regulations.
“The Covid-19 pandemic remains a public health crisis and An Garda Síochána continues to appeal to all citizens to comply with Public Health Regulations and Guidelines, in particular essential journeys, in order to continue to save lives.”