Garda union defends use of balaclavas at housing protest

The Garda Commissioner has said the use of the hoods was "not correct"

Garda union defends use of balaclavas at housing protest

People take part in a protest outside 34 North Frederick St in Dublin's city centre, following the eviction, 12-09-2018. Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

The Garda Representative Association has defended officers that wore balaclavas while breaking up a housing protest in Dublin.

It comes after the new Garda Commissioner Drew Harris admitted the use of the hoods while policing the protest was “not correct.”

The Public Order Unit was deployed after crowds gathered to protest the eviction of a group of housing activists from an occupied property on North Frederick Street in Dublin on Tuesday night.

Images shared on social media showed a number of men dressed all in black and wearing balaclavas breaking down the door of the building to remove the activists.

The deployment of masked members of the Garda riot squad to police the crowds in front of the property sparked widespread concern and criticism – with protests held in Dublin city centre on Wednesday evening.

 On Newstalk Breakfast this morning GRA President, Jim Mulligan said members wore the equipment they were given.

“The risk assessment on the day required the deployment of the Public Order Unit,” he said.

“When the Public Order Unit are deployed, they wear the equipment that they are given for safety reasons.

“We would always stand over that.”

In a statement yesterday evening Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the use of the “fire retardant hood” 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,” he said.

“A directive has issued today from Deputy Commissioner, Policing & Security, to re-enforce this requirement to all personnel."

Five people were arrested following the disturbance.

Commissioner Harris defended the actions of the gardaí on the night, insisting: "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."

Commissioner Harris has ordered a report to find out 'what lessons can be learnt' from the incident.

A spokesperson said two people were charged and bailed to appear before the Criminal Courts of Justice on October 2nd.

Two others received adult cautions.

One was released without charge and a file is being prepared for the DPP.