The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has called for an inquiry into the level of force used to police a protest in Dublin on May Day.
Ms Aisling Reidy, director of the council, said the security operation mounted by gardai over the weekend was “not proportionate”, given the threat to public disorder which had been posed by demonstrators.
“There is an obligation on gardai to give an account as to why force was used, and whether it was reasonable in the circumstances. We are told that there is no particular review or investigation of the use of force. That is worrying because there should be a review.”
She was speaking yesterday at the release of video footage by the organisers of the May Day protests showing an unarmed demonstrator being struck twice from behind with a baton by a member of the Garda’s public order unit.
Following the main May Day protests in Dublin city centre, a smaller group marched to the Phoenix Park, where a gathering of state leaders was marking the enlargement of the European Union.
Garda attacked the protestors, some of whom began throwing missiles and shouting ‘RUC out out out’, in a reference to police tactics normally used North of the border.
Water cannons, imported for the occasion from the North, were directed at the protestors, including some sitting on walls next the Phoenix Park’s Ashtown gate. One cameraman was thrown from the wall and knocked unconscious.
The clashes were blamed on the Gardai, who they said were keen to justify the massive military and police deployment in Dublin following predictions of major rioting by ‘anarchist mobs’.
Dublin Grassroots Network, which organised the protest rally, said several protesters were seriously injured in the confrontation on the Navan Road. These included a woman who suffered a burst eardrum when she was hit in the side of the head by a water-cannon. More than a dozen other people suffered “severe bruising” and lacerations.
A spokeswoman for the group, Ms Liz Curry, said the Garda’s heavy-handed approach to the protests reflected an international trend towards the “criminalisation of political dissent”.
She added that she was also concerned about the use of arrest, search and seizure powers in the run-up to the demonstrations was in violation of Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which guaranteed the right to individual liberty and security.