From top: Some of the 319 newly attested members of An Garda Síochána in Templemore last week; Minister for Health Simon Harris
RTÉ’s Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds told Áine Lawlor on RTÉ’s News At One that gardai have been dispersing groups of people.
He told Ms Lawlor:
“In Dungarvan [Co Waterford], at 7.30pm on Monday night, the gardai went to a green area to break up a football game. There was about ten young people involved. One became verbally aggressive and then he coughed in the garda’s direction.
“He was arrested, detained, released without charge but there’s an investigation under way. Yesterday, in Dun Laoghaire, at about 4.40pm, the gardai got a call that there was a group of youths involved in anti-social behaviour. They were directed to disperse and then one was arrested.
“Also at 5pm yesterday, the gardai were called to Maypark in Donnycarney [Dublin] where there was a large gathering. Up to 100 young people, the public order unit, which was only established a week ago, was called in.
“They were supported by gardai from Clontarf, Raheny and Ballymun. The crowd dispersed, they ran in all directions. No one was arrested.
“But gardai say they’re now enforcing the new regulations, they’re actively intervening. Those who resist, cough or spit are being arrested. They say this activity could amount to an offence against the Public Order Act or the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.
“And, as you said yourself, the Minister for Health [Simon Harris] said this morning that he too was a victim of such an activity where a man and a woman came up and deliberately coughed at him and ran off, laughing.”
Mr Reynolds also spoke about social media “again causing problems”.
“First of all, there are a lot of young people trying to show off, thinking they’re being clever but really doing, quite frankly, stupid and dangerous things and posting them on social media. They’re gathering in groups, they’re dancing together.
“In one video, I saw, and I don’t think it’s from this country, a young girl licks a toilet seat. Now these videos are being widely circulated. Obviously, the message is that these are not to act as encouragement for anybody.
“Also, people are WhatsApping and recirculating scare stories on social media. There are stories circulating of a baby being coughed at in Galway, a nurse in Dublin, a group in Bray pulling masks off older people and deliberately coughing at them.
“Now these are frightening and disturbing but the gardai say they have no received any formal reports or complaints about these incidents so these have not been verified and the gardai are asking people within information on anything like this to contact them, not to recirculate these allegations on social media but to report it directly to them.
“They say they will treat these allegations seriously, if people report them, directly to them. They will investigate them and prosecute if necessary.
“And the gardai also said in a statement this lunchtime that it’s clear public information messages are required at this time and they’ve asked the media not to inadvertently propagate social media myths or fake news at this time.”
Yesterday: Tough On Gatherings, Tough On The Causes Of Gatherings
Previously: Police Academy: Their First Assignment