Commissioner admits Garda use of balaclavas at Dublin housing protest was 'not correct'

It follows an eviction and protest on North Frederick Street earlier this week

Commissioner admits Garda use of balaclavas at Dublin housing protest was 'not correct'

Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The Garda Commissioner has admitted the use of balaclavas at a housing protest in Dublin was 'not correct'.

Masked gardaí from the Public Order Unit gathered in front of the property on North Frederick Street while an eviction was being carried out.

Activists had been occupying the property since last month.

The eviction prompted a demonstration at the site, with five people arrested after a 'small crowd failed to leave the area'.

The incident has prompted widespread concern and criticism, including protests in Dublin city centre yesterday evening.

In a statement today, Commissioner Drew Harris said public order officers were deployed 'as the event grew more tense'.

He explained: "The use of a fire retardant hood by public order officers is a matter for the operational commander on the ground and is designed to protect the safety of our members based on a risk assessment.

"However, the form of dress used at the event was not correct as it is policy that if it deemed necessary to use the hood then it should be used in tandem with a protective helmet. A directive has issued today from Deputy Commissioner, Policing & Security, to re-enforce this requirement to all personnel."

He said he has ordered a report to find out 'what lessons can be learnt' from the incident.

In the statement, he also defended the behaviour of gardaí, saying: "Members of An Garda Síochána showed restraint in the face of physical and verbal abuse from a very small minority and I condemn the racist abuse suffered by an individual member of An Garda Síochána working at the event."

Taoiseach's response

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he 'didn't like to see' private security workers wearing balaclavas during the eviction on Tuesday evening.

He said: "I don't think that's the kind of image that anybody wants to see on their TV screens."

However, he defended gardaí, arguing: "We've checked this - they're wearing hoods, in some cases ski masks... they wear hoods in case there's risk of fire or something being thrown at them, and they wear the ski masks in some cases to protect their identities.

"In all cases, they had their badges, and those badges were visible".