Organisers of an anti-lockdown rally have ignored mounting calls for it to be cancelled, and insisted tonight that it's going ahead tomorrow as planned.
Pressure mounted on the event organisers today with charity campaigners, business leaders, the Lord Mayor of Cork, and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties among those who called for the event to be scrapped.
But event spokesman, Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, secretary of the People's Convention, said he doesn't agree with the lockdown restrictions, that the event will go ahead and that he's prepared to deal with the legal consequences.
“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 about social distancing and wearing of face masks but if prosecutions follow because people want to attend a peaceful assembly and speeches, that would be a scandalous disregard of our rights."
Gardaí have prepared a major policing operation amid fears of a repeat of the violent scenes witnessed during an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin last weekend.
Several city centre pubs have now agreed to cancel their takeaway alcohol service tomorrow. Chair of the VFI’s Cork branch, Michael O’Donovan, said following an approach from gardaí, they felt it was "the prudent and responsible thing to do".
“We are so close to getting to the finish line, I would ask people to think twice about attending the rally,” he said.
Catriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners appealed to people to think twice about attending the rally.
"I’m asking those who are going to protest to think of those who are struggling,” she said.
“Don’t take our lives in your hands. Err on the side of caution and please let us all be safe.
Eoin O'Sullivan, president of the Cork Business Association, said such a protest could prolong lockdown just when people see light at the end of the tunnel.
"Businesses and people have sacrificed so much protecting public health. We view this anti-lockdown protest as a potential high-risk event that could see an increase in Covid-19 cases which will result in further lockdown," he said.
A garda spokesman said they have engaged with the rally organisers and reminded them of the temporary Covid-19 regulations introduced under the Health Act 1947 as amended.
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.
Gardaí have declined to comment on the detail of tomorrow's policing operation but they have confirmed that public order units will be available, if required, as part of a graduated response to any specific issues that may arise.