Four appear in court in relation to Cork anti-lockdown protest

At least 450 people are estimated to have attended the protest in Cork City centre on Saturday afternoon, despite repeated calls not to do so for fears of spreading Covid-19
Four appear in court in relation to Cork anti-lockdown protest

There was a large visible Garda presence at the Cork City centre Anti-Lockdown protest on St Patrick's Street on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Larry Cummins

Four people have already appeared before district courts in Cork and Kildare in relation to Saturday's anti-lockdown protest event in Cork City, with another person due before court in Kerry.

At least 450 people are estimated to have attended the protest in Cork City centre on Saturday afternoon, despite repeated calls not to do so for fears of spreading Covid-19. Many of those in attendance were not wearing masks.

There were no incidents at the event, which was organised by a group called the People's Convention, but gardaí had put what it called an "extensive and comprehensive policing plan" in place and a heavy garda presence with more than 200 members was evident before, during and after the event.

Later it emerged that two men been arrested in Cork City, one for a breach of 31(a)(9) Health Act 1947 and one for Public Order Offences.

Gardaí later said that the two men who had been arrested in Cork were later charged and appeared before Cork City District Court on Saturday evening.

A man and a woman arrested in Kildare and suspected of being en route to the event were charged and appeared before Naas District Court, also on Saturday evening. 

A man arrested in Co Kerry, again on suspicion of travelling to the event, has been charged and released. 

He is scheduled to appear before Killarney District Court on March 16. A man arrested in north Cork was released and issued with a Fixed Payment Notice.

Spokesperson for the organisers of the event, Diarmaid O'Cadhla, and others who addressed the crowd on Saturday, had stressed that it was a peaceful event.

A number of speakers claimed that no laws were being broken and that there was a constitutional right to protest.

 There was a large visible Garda presence at the Cork City centre Anti-Lockdown protest on St Patrick's Street on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Larry Cummins

There was a large visible Garda presence at the Cork City centre Anti-Lockdown protest on St Patrick's Street on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Larry Cummins

Those at the event heard repeated claims that the lockdown was unnecessary and that there was little evidence that its benefits outweighed its disadvantages.

The government was also repeatedly criticised for its response to the pandemic, while one speaker claimed there had been "manipulation of the figures from the outset", while Paddy Bullman, from east Cork, said, "the only thing they wanted to stop you spreading was the truth".

Others referred to job losses, businesses folding or coming under financial pressure, the toll on mental health and the isolation felt by many as a result of the lockdowns imposed due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr O'Cadhla said he had nothing but respect for frontline care workers, but said the "scaremongering" was continuing.

However, there was condemnation of the event afterwards, particularly given the risk of spreading Covid-19 at a time when Cork's incidence rate of the virus is the lowest in the country.

Among those to criticise the event was former IMO President Ronan Boland, who said "anyone attending (let alone organising) such an event has no respect for frontline healthcare workers."

Another protest gathering is planned for Dublin on St Patrick's Day.

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