There is public outrage at Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan’s support for proposals to outlaw photographs of gardai when they are on duty.
There is also condemnation of Facebook’s failure to remove personal details of a garda and a picture of him posted after he was subjected to abuse and threats.
The anger in both issues follows the use of gardai with their faces covered monitoring a group of balaclava-covered men, said to be private security officers, as they evicted protestors last week from a Dublin house.
The protestors were led by the Take Back the City organization which says it is highlighting Dublin’s homelessness by occupying vacant buildings.
Dublin city councilors, members of a policing committee and observers of the operation criticized the use of masks by gardai.
This week Flanagan said he was favorably disposed to a proposal by garda representative associations to make it an offense to photograph gardai while undertaking their duties.
The minister’s comment followed a weekend in which a criminal investigation was opened into threats made on social media against an officer who was monitoring the Dublin house eviction. Users of a site threatened the officer with “a bullet” and cable ties.
Flanagan said, “I acknowledge the fact that, of course, gardai need to show identification. However, I am concerned about the public order dimension of gardai having multiple mobile phones thrust into their faces as they go about their policing duties.”
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said it was seriously concerned about Flanagan’s comments.
An spokesperson told the Irish Independent, “While the criminal harassment or intimidation of gardai is unacceptable, the general outlawing of photographing gardai while on duty would be a grossly disproportionate response to the incidents that arise where technology is misused.”
Separately, the Irish Daily Mail reported outrage at Facebook’s failure to remove personal details of a named garda, including where he eats every day, who was subjected to abuse and threats.
Pictures of the officer were finally taken down on Monday afternoon, but his name and details of where he worked remained on site.
Hildegarde Naughton, chairperson of the Oireachtas Communications Committee, told the paper, “Social media has a myriad advantages but it also affords a minority the opportunity to threaten and abuse without fear of platforms intervening. This must end.”
Facebook said it had removed the pictures that identified the garda, but a spokesperson didn’t say why it took so long.
The spokesperson added that content in violation of bullying and credible threats policies had been removed.