It is “dangerous” for a politician to be feeding the idea that Gardaí are on the side of landlords against the people, according to Ciara Doherty.
Standing in for Ciara Kelly in presenting Newstalk Breakfast today, the journalist and presenter said Gardaí are in a “really difficult position” when it comes to evictions.
She said it is important they are defended and given the space to do their duty.
She was speaking after Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin shared an image of masked Gardaí supervising a famine-era eviction.
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The artwork by artist Mála Spíosraí draws inspiration from a well-known painting of a 19th Century eviction – with the masked Gardaí a reference to the force’s controversial involvement in a Dublin city centre eviction in 2015.
On Newstalk Breakfast Ciara Doherty says she understands the artwork – but has “difficulty” with Deputy Ó Broin’s decision to repost it with the caption: ‘No words needed’.
“The art I understand,” she said. “I kind of appreciate the art.
“Spice Bag is the artist and he has actually sort of taken an image from this eviction on North Frederick Street back in 2015, which the Gardaí did get a lot of abuse for and I think the Gardaí themselves came out afterwards and said mistakes were made.”
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) April 3, 2023
She said Deputy Ó Broin should have thought twice before retweeting it.
“I just think this is a really, really emotive issue,” she said.
“We have heard for the last ten days so many individuals on radio stations, on TV networks talking about their fear around evictions and talking about people overholding and the idea being that there will be more forcible evictions in this country over the next couple of months.
“There is going to be hostility there towards An Garda Síochána who are in a really difficult position and I think we have to defend them.”
Garda policy states that members should not engage in tenancy disputes “unless a criminal offence is alleged or disclosed”.
It notes that when Gardaí are present at an eviction, their role is to “ensure peace and public order is maintained”.
Ms Doherty questioned whether people would prefer Gardaí stayed away from all evictions.
“If you have an agent for a landlord going along and forcibly evicting people from their home, are we saying the Gardaí shouldn’t be in attendance?” she said.
“Is that what we want?
“I think it just feeds this idea that the Gardai are there enabling evictions and on the side of the landlords and I think that is unfair.
“I think it is very unfair and I think, actually, it’s kind of dangerous.”
In a tweet this afternoon, Deputy Ó Broin said he had spoken with the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) General Secretary Antoinette Cunningham about the Tweet.
He said he stressed that “it was not my intention to offend, criticise or drag An Garda Síochána into a political controversy”.
“My intention was solely to highlight the issue of homelessness/evictions & criticise Government policy,” he said.
— antoinette (@antoabs) April 3, 2023
Fellow presenter Shane Coleman said Deputy Ó Broin “knew exactly what he was doing” when he sent the tweet.
“It’s part of … it’s kind of a kind of a culture war I suppose where you have a cruel, uncaring establishment versus the ordinary people,” he said.
“By establishment I mean, the Government, the State and the forces of the State.
“To me at least, that narrative is incredibly simplistic and it’s misleading but it is a really powerful narrative and it plays very much into voters fears as you say.”
Shane insisted that comparing what is happening in Ireland at the moment to the 19th Century is “ridiculous”.
Today’s social media post by a leading member of the main opposition party shows what they really think of the Gardai. The mask slips. It’s offensive, inappropriate and disrespectful to the men and women of An Garda Siochana
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) April 1, 2023
Yesterday, many Government representatives reacted angrily to Deputy Ó Broin’s tweet – with the interim Justice Minister labelling it “offensive, inappropriate and disrespectful”.
The AGSI (Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors) General Secretary Antoinette Cunningham described it as “deeply offensive and wholly inappropriate”.