Gardaí examine CCTV footage from protest
Gardaí were yesterday continuing to examine CCTV footage of the protest that took place at NUI Galway on Saturday afternoon “in order to identify the main protagonists”.
No arrests have yet been made in relation to the anti-austerity demonstration, which saw a number of demonstrators pepper sprayed as they attempted to breach garda barricades at the Labour Party National Conference.
A contract cameraman working for RTÉ Nuacht was also brought to hospital following the pepper spray incident and was subsequently discharged on Saturday.
Speaking to the Galway Independent, a garda spokesperson said the vast majority of protesters who took part in the demonstration were “law-abiding citizens” who obeyed instructions to enter the college grounds via the main entrance and remained on the President’s Lawn listening to speakers representing the various campaigns taking part in the rally.
The spokesperson said, however, that up to 500 demonstrators were “hell-bent on going down a different route” via the Martin Ryan Institute in an attempt to reach the Bailey Allen Hall, where the conference was being held.
The breakaway group subsequently managed to breach barricades and reach the doors of the conference hall, which was “locked down” with delegates remaining inside.
“They weren’t there to protest, they were there to cause trouble and that was their main focus,” said the garda spokesperson.
Around 80 gardaí were involved in the security operation at NUI Galway over the weekend, with between 50 and 60 on duty during Saturday’s protest and the spokesperson said that, overall, they were happy with how events had unfolded.
“We had a policing plan in place for the whole weekend and, bar that incident at the protest, we had no other incidents of any significance, so overall we are happy enough with it,” he said.
He added that gardaí had felt that their lives were in danger during initial scuffles at the barricades and deployed pepper spray in order to protect themselves.
Responding to national media reports of violence during the protest, the Galway Alliance Against War, which led the march from Eyre Square to NUI Galway, said that, “apart from the unnecessary use of pepper spray by the gardaí, there was nothing other than some pushing and shoving”.
“It has to be said that the gardaí were quite restrained. This reflects the disaffection of the gardaí with the policies that are impacting on the vast majority of Irish citizens, including members of the gardaí,” said a spokesperson for the group, which carried a tricolour-draped coffin representing the death of Irish neutrality during Saturday’s protest.