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Question

40. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the circumstances by which members of An Garda Síochána were required to work with armed and masked private security personnel during a recent raid of a premises (details supplied); if it is standard procedure for members of An Garda Síochána to partake in private security operations while on duty; the way in which the order for such an operation was authorised; the person that authorised same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42200/18]

50. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the regulations under which members of the public order unit of An Garda Síochána are permitted to wear face covering attire when engaged in their official duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42201/18]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 50 together.
The Deputy will appreciate that the manner in which any Garda operation is conducted is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I, as Minister, have no role in this regard. Similarly, the deployment of all Garda resources, including personnel, is a matter for An Garda Síochána.
With regard to the incident referred to by the Deputy, I am advised by the Garda authorities that a removal was conducted on behalf of the property’s owner, and was the subject of a High Court order directing people who had been occupying the premises to vacate it. The removal of individuals from the property was not conducted by An Garda Síochána, but by a private firm acting for the owner of the premises on foot of this High Court Order.
I am further advised that the role of the Gardaí who were in attendance at the scene that evening was to facilitate the High Court order being carried out safely, to ensure public order and to facilitate peaceful protest. I understand that Community Gardaí were deployed initially and were later supported by a Garda Public Order Unit.
The execution of High Court orders is not a matter which falls within the remit of the Private Security Authority. The law and procedures governing the execution of Court Orders are contained in the Enforcement of Court Orders Acts and the Rules of Court made under them, and any dispute in relation to the enforcement of a Court Order is solely a matter for the Courts.
I note Commissioner Harris’s statement in relation to the protest and he has requested a report from the Assistant Commissioner, Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR), to see what lessons can be learned from the event. I understand that this review will include an examination of a particular vehicle involved in the removal of the persons from the premises, as well as any other associated Road Traffic Act offences that might have occurred. The Policing Authority, at its recent meeting, pursued this matter with An Garda Síochána too.
The right to protest is a fundamental one in any democracy, and one which must be protected and facilitated. However, it is also a right that must be exercised peacefully and with respect for the rights of others. In this context, we must not lose sight of the fact that the members of An Garda Síochána were enforcing the law of the land in what were very difficult circumstances.
As the Deputy has pointed out, there has been some disquiet about members of the Public Order Unit wearing hoods. The Commissioner has said they should have been worn in conjunction with helmets and you will be familiar with public order police around the world wearing helmets in the course of their policing duties.
It is a sad fact and a worrying development that Gardaí, and particularly those who undertake public order policing, are frequently personally targeted and subjected to vile abuse and threats, particularly online. At the protest itself, the Gardaí were subject to sustained abuse, including in one incident, racist abuse and I condemn that behaviour. Where behaviour crosses the line into criminality, it may be investigated but it would be preferable if the crime did not occur at all. I would appeal to people to recognise that Gardaí simply doing their jobs should not be targeted in this way.