UNMASKED AND THEN ATTACKED
Gardaí claimed they wore balaclavas at eviction to prevent online abuse. Within 66 hours, this garda was identified and subjected to sinister vitriol on Facebook
A GARDA who policed the Take Back The City protest this week has been threatened with a bullet to the head and a cable tie around his neck after he was named and pictured on social media this week, the Irish Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The garda, who was one of the officers heavily criticised for wearing a fire-resistant hood, had his picture and daily movements shared more than a thousand times on social media by last night.
Vile comments, including sinister threats, personal insults and comments about where he eats each day and where he is stationed, appeared under his picture – which was shared just over 66 hours after helping to police the controversial protest on Tuesday – despite the fact that he hid his face. One of those who commented on the
sinister post, suggested ‘a cable tie round the fat c**ts neck’. Another said: ‘This guy needs to be hit in the head with a bullet.’
Gardaí came in for criticism this week after pictures emerged of a number of officers wearing fire-resistant hoods alongside a private security firm who were wearing balaclavas while evicting protesters from an occupied building on Dublin’s North Frederick Street, on foot of a court order.
The group Take Back The City is calling for an end to the homelessness crisis. For three weeks, activists had occupied
‘Needs to be hit in the head with bullet’
34 North Frederick Street, Dublin 1.
After the pictures emerged, the Policing Authority said the images ‘did not inspire confidence’ while the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris acknowledged the gardaí should not have been wearing the hoods without also using protective helmets. The incident led to a march and sit-in on Wednesday.
Garda sources pointed to fears of social media being used to intimidate officers.
Those fears were realised last night for one member of the force who policed the protest on Tuesday.
Some of the most egregious comments on the post, including more threats with bombs and guns, were being taken down soon after being put up.
The original post shared two clear pictures of the garda alongside a picture of him in the Garda-issued fire resistant hood. The post read: ‘Welcome To Digital Age Of Facial Recognition Software. Meet Garda ***** who can be found every day stuffing his face in [a named restaurant], that’s when he is not wandering the corridors of the [place of work] in search of [allegation of assault].’
Sources who know the garda involved said last night how they were ‘disgusted’ by the move and added he is a ‘lovely’ person. One source said: ‘I was disgusted when I saw his face being shared. He is a very caring fella. You’re afraid going into work, you’re afraid being followed home. I’m not exaggerating this, but lads will say: “I’m not going out to do this or that protest if I’m going to be shown all over social media.”
‘The other thing is your family is worried. Stuff like that can really affect you.’
The GRA said last night it did not want to comment on the sharing of the picture.
But sources within the organisation said the reason the gardaí had worn the hoods on Tuesday was ‘partly the threat from social media’. Gardaí, one source argued, are ‘very easily identified by their shoulder number – it’s not like they’re not transparent’.
However, the source went on, ‘because of previous experience of this type of protest’, the gardaí involved decided to wear the hoods.
‘They were trying to hide nothing, only protect themselves from social media. All the fears of those members have been justified.’
The source added of the gardaí: ‘These are people doing their jobs. And because of that, they’re being abused and threatened.’
Another source told how the ‘online vigilantes’ are detracting from the legitimate protest. ‘I’ve no problem with anyone protesting, but this is detracting from the central issue here. Anybody who has that antiGarda agenda seems to be hijacking it.’
A Garda spokesperson told the MoS last night: ‘An Garda Síochána takes the safety of its members very seriously. In general, if any Garda member is subject to threats then this is investigated and the situation risk assessed to see what measures are required to ensure their safety.’
A request for a comment from Take Back The City – which is not the organisation which shared the picture – was not responded to.
‘Afraid going to work, afraid going home’
dUty: The garda on Tuesday
sinister: The threat online