Belfast Telegraph

Mistakes were made during housing protest eviction – Commissioner

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has admitted some mistakes were made during a housing occupation eviction facilitated by the Gardai.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has admitted some mistakes were made during a housing occupation eviction facilitated by the Gardai.

The new commissioner released a statement on Thursday in which he asked for a review into the incident but has praised officers for restraint.

“An Garda Siochana respects the right of people to protest peacefully,” he said.

“Our role at such events is to facilitate lawful protest while protecting the rights of others to do their lawful work safely – in this case carrying out an order of the High Court. ”

Five people were arrested on Tuesday night in Dublin’s North Frederick Street as Gardai attended the property accompanied by an unidentified private contractor group to evict housing protesters.

The group took over the property as well as a second property in Dublin’s Summerhill Parade over the summer to protest against housing conditions across the country.

The order to vacate North Frederick Street was issued on August 28, when the High Court ordered anyone occupying the house to vacate by 2pm the next day.

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People take part in a sit down protest in O’Connell Street, Dublin following the eviction (Brian Lawless/PA)

The eviction sparked criticism after both the Garda and the private security group attended the property in balaclavas, and a number of protesters claim they were injured in the eviction and subsequent sit-down protest.

Mr Harris admitted the wearing of balaclavas was a mistake and has issued a directive to the Deputy Commissioner.

“In relation to this specific incident, whilst preserving peace and public order, a graduated response was taken in line with the prevailing circumstances.

“At the start of this event, An Garda Siochana deployed three community policing officers.

“As the atmosphere at the event grew more tense, a small number of public order officers were deployed to ensure public safety.

“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.

“In addition, I have requested a report from Assistant Commissioner, DMR, to see what lessons can be learnt from the event.

“Members of An Garda Siochana 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 Siochana working at the event.”

Two protesters were charged and bailed to appear at court in October.

Two received adult cautions and one was released without charge, with a file being prepared for the DPP.

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