Gardaí have moved to defend the decision by members of the Public Order unit to wear balaclavas while policing a housing protest in Dublin yesterday.
Five people were arrested during demonstrations against the eviction of housing activists from a building on North Frederick Street.
Images shared on social media showed a number of men dressed all in black and wearing balaclavas entering the building to remove the protesters.
Activist ‘Eoin’ said the men were members of a private security firm that displayed no identification and broke down the door using saws and drills.
A number of masked gardaí from the Public Order Unit gathered in front of the property while the eviction was being carried out.
This morning, the Garda press office confirmed that the balaclavas are made from the same fire retardant material as the rest of their uniform.
It said the material is worn for health and safety reasons.
The office denied that the headwear is used to conceal the identity of Garda members - noting that their ID number is displayed on the chest area of their uniforms.
The spokesperson also insisted that gardaí were not assisting the security firm with the evictions - and said they only dealt with the protests on the street.
Earlier, Gardaí confirmed that five people were arrested.
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.
Following the evictions, a crowd of demonstrators gathered outside Store Street Garda Station to call for their release.
Sinn Féin has warned that the images “certainly give an impression of a heavy handed, overreaction to a peaceful housing occupation.”
Meanwhile, Green Party justice spokesperson Roderic O’Gorman said he was disturbed by the images of gardaí wearing balaclavas at the scene.
“I just think it is quite disturbing that we see a protest being policed in this particular way,” he said.
“I don’t think it meets the criteria of transparency and openness that we would expect from policing.”
Demonstrators outside Store Street Garda Station following the eviction, 121-09-2018. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews
The eviction follows a 10-day occupation of a building at Summerhill Parade a short distance away – which ended after the High Court ordered protesters to leave.
The Take Back the City group has been holding sit-ins at vacant properties to highlight the number of homes sitting empty during the housing crisis.
Those involved in the demonstrations have argued that houses should not be allowed sit vacant during the housing crisis.
The group has pledged to hold a ‘solidarity rally’ later today.
With reporting from Brendan O'Loughlin and Gail Conway