Gardaí taking a ‘different approach’ to other European forces when dealing with refugee protests - Drew Harris

The Garda Commissioner said the approach was working as the ‘heat’ had gone out of the likes of the blockade situation in Inch, Co Clare

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said the gardaí have decided not to take a more robust intervention at the scene of protests over refugee accommodation like other European police forces as these had “not been successful”.

Mr Harris said that the Garda had a “different approach” which was working, with “the heat gone out of” the situation in Inch, Co Clare in less than a week. At any similar event, if enforcement was required as a follow-up action that would take place while the Special Detective Unit was monitoring online content.

He also said the situation in Inch, where a refugee centre was blockaded, before being lifted at the weekend, had been “overstated” by the media, explaining within 24 hours of a roadblock being erected solutions were being reached and a resolution unfolded gradually over the following days. He also denied reports the Garda had somehow facilitated protesters in gaining access to a bus so they could count the number of foreign nationals on board.

The “serious disorder” in the Sandwith St area, Dublin 2, over two days the week before last was under “very active” criminal investigation with evidence being gathered at present.


Commissioner Harris described as a “local protest” the events in Inch, Co Clare, last week when a roadblock was erected by a small number of people purporting to represent the local community’s concerns about international protection applicants being house in a hotel there.

He said that incident had been “managed and managed successfully” by local gardaí and was now “moving towards a resolution”, apparent reference to the roadblock being dismantled.

While a similar roadblock had been erected by people in Santry, Dublin, in recent days as part of a protest against the housing of international protection applicants at a centre there and a Garda presence had been assigned to that location.

Some of those involved had a “malign purpose” and the Garda was seeking to dispel “the fears and myths that are being propagated” and were liaising with the local community. The Garda would ensure the law was upheld and no breach of the peace was committed.

In a reference to more robust interventions by other European police forces, he said these had “not been successful” and the Garda had a “different approach” which was working, with “the heat gone out of” the situation in Co Clare in less than a week. At any similar event, if enforcement was required as a follow-up action that would take place while the Special Detective Unit was monitoring online content.

At the same time, specific criminal investigations were under way into priority figures on the far right, which Commissioner Harris referred to as “the persistent perpetrators of the hate message”.

Commissioner Harris said “hundreds” applicants had been successfully housed in a wide variety of locations in the last week.

Separately, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said that while people were allowed to protest, blockades of refugee centres are “not appropriate”.

He made the remarks in the wake of last week’s protests in Co Clare – which was lifted at the weekend – and protests about another new centre in Santry, North Dublin.

The Government has been scrambling to find accommodation for refugees that have arrived from Ukraine as well as asylum seekers fleeing other countries.

Asked what he would say to people protesting about a new refugee centre in Santry Mr O’Brien replied:

“Our people have had to flee persecution for generations and many of the countries that we went to we weren’t initially welcomed there but we made real impacts in those countries.

“I would say to people that we’re a welcoming nation, we should be, we should continue to be.”

Mr O’Brien said that in places where there are community concerns they will be addressed.

“I would say to people that the blockade or protesting outside of those centres is not appropriate.

“Protest is fine.

“I respect the right to protest but where it is held in an appropriate place and done appropriately.

“People are allowed to protest but they’re not allowed to intimidate.”

Mr O’Brien said Ireland is “doing the right thing”, that conflicts around the world are increasing and people are looking for safety.

“Thankfully we’re in a position as a country to provide that safety and as I said the vast majority of people in this country support what has been done in that space”.

He said there are “challenges” but “every town and village in this country is playing its part ... and the vast, vast majority are doing, in my view, a superb job and doing the right thing.”

Fianna Fáil minister Mr O’Brien also played down reported tensions between him and Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman that arose at last week’s Cabinet meeting.

He was said by sources to have “pushed back” against Mr O’Gorman when the Green Party TD repeated a request for assistance from other departments in accommodating refugees.

Speaking to reporters on Monday Mr O’Brien said the Government is “working as a collective” and that he works “very closely” with Mr O’Gorman.

He said that the last 14 to 15 months has seen an extra 100,000 people arriving in Ireland and “we’re duty bound and morally bound to look after those people and we will and we have been able to do that.”

“It hasn’t been without its challenges – no question but every Government department is working together.”

An Garda Síochána said it “continues to have a proportionate response to a demonstration outside a commercial premises in Santry, Dublin 9, which has been ongoing for a number of weeks”.

“Local Gardaí continue to maintain a presence at the location, continue to engage with various people in attendance, and are facilitating access to and from the premises. Any Garda response in relation to evolving events is in keeping with a community policing model and graduated policing response taking into account relevant legislation and public safety.”

The statement noted there is a constitutional right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, subject to statutory provisions.

“An Garda Síochána respects the right for citizens to exercise their constitutional rights. An Garda Síochána has no role in permitting or authorising public gatherings.

“Where necessary An Garda Síochána puts in place appropriate and proportionate policing plans to monitor public gatherings. An Garda Síochána does not comment on or provide specific details of operational plans.

“An Garda Síochána is not in a position to provide ongoing commentary on specifics of what is an ongoing incident.

“An Garda Síochána does not comment on social media content that it is not possible to verify.”

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times