I would like to thank Deputy Murphy on behalf of the Minister for raising this matter here today, and to pass on the Minister’s regrets she cannot be here to answer in person.
The Minister is aware of the protest which took place in Dublin on Saturday afternoon and, as the Taoiseach stated this morning, it is of course the case that people have a right to protest in a democracy.
However, it is important to remind ourselves regularly exactly why it is that the range of health regulations and guidelines currently operating have been put in place. They are there to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and to keep each of us safe, particularly the most vulnerable among us.
As well as protecting life, it is also essential that we keep the virus suppressed in order to look after our children and keep our schools and businesses open. That is why the Government this morning set out our Plan for COVID Resilience and National Recovery.
The Minister knows that this is not easy, and that people have now spent six months living under what are very difficult circumstances for all of us, but she would urge all members of the public to act responsibly during this time and to abide by the health regulations that have been put in place.
With regard to Saturday’s events, the Minister has been advised by the Garda authorities that the protests were policed by personnel from Garda Divisions across the Dublin Metropolitan Region, supported by two Public Order Units. In view of the size of the protest, Kildare Street was closed off by Gardaí and traffic diversions were put in place.
With regard to the alleged assault to which the Deputy refers, the Minister understands that a Garda investigation is underway into this incident. I hope the Deputy will appreciate that it would therefore not be appropriate for the Minister or myself to comment in any detail on this in light of that Garda investigation.
The Minister would like to emphasise in the strongest terms that violence, confrontation and intimidation have simply no place in public protests.
People can have a difference of opinion or a differing view, however the level of aggression displayed by some of the protestors on Saturday is not acceptable and is deeply concerning.
The Minister would therefore once again urge all those involved to act responsibly and to abide by the public health guidelines and regulations which have been put in place in order to protect all of us.