Irish protesters at risk of ‘heavy-handed’ response from state and police according to civil liberties NGO

A photo of Gardaí, i.e., Irish police officers, watching a protest.

An Irish campaign group declared that it has “serious and urgent concerns” about how the state reacts to “protest and dissent”. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) also argued that protesters are at risk of a “heavy-handed” response from the authorities. It made the comments ahead of a press conference on 26 June, where it detailed its findings.

“Degrading treatment”

In a press release, the ICCL said it travelled across the country gathering information from protest groups about their treatment by the authorities. It met with “environmental activists, anti-war protesters, anti-eviction groups, and activists living in Direct Provision”. It also consulted with members of the police force “and relevant oversight bodies”.

As a result, it claimed it has “serious and urgent concerns” about protest and dissent in Ireland. It reported:

We have been informed that activists living in Direct Provision deal with retribution up to and including the with-holding of food and benefits for holding protests, and that housing activists arrested at evictions have been subjected to degrading treatment such as strip-searching.

Protesting on the fringes

Liam Herrick, executive director of the ICCL, observed that police “are supportive” of large protests taking place in the public eye. But he also said the police and state have a “much more heavy-handed” response with other protesters. This includes protesters “living on the margins of society or protesting outside of the media spotlight”.

The ICCL went on to declare that:

there is a wide gap between the stated position of the Garda [police] with regard to protecting the right to peaceful protest, and the experiences of many of the groups involved in organising a wide range of demonstrations and protests.

Read on...

Repression

The ICCL disclosed that some groups alleged the police may misuse its powers. This reportedly led to some incidents of police arresting protesters under the Public Order Act and later dropping the charges. It also related reports of police intimidation via “photography, following cars, harassment, and stop-and-search”.

The organisation claimed that some police may evict “protesters from squats when media are not present”. It suggested that police have also arrested people protesting in “public spaces such as city councils”.

The ICCL also claimed that police may have strip-searched protesters and “inflicted psychological trauma”. The report states:

Arrested protesters have allegedly been encouraged to give statements without lawyers present, and in some cases even denied access to their lawyers.

“Managing protests”

The Canary asked the police to comment on these allegations. A spokesperson said:

Any member of the public who feels they have been ill treated by An Garda Siochana can make a complaint to GSOC [Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission].

Asylum seekers and refugees living in direct provision have also faced unfair, possibly illegal, treatment. On occasion, they’ve protested against their living conditions in direct provision. Because of this, in some cases, the protesters have had “food and benefits…withheld” by operators of their specific direct provision centres.

The ICCL also reported a lack of information about police training, policy, and use of “legal powers and the use of force”. It argued that this shows “serious weaknesses in the Irish approach to managing protests”.

Featured image via Flickr – William Murphy

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us