Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is to meet garda representatives this week over a violent protest that took place in Dublin city centre at the weekend.

In a statement released this afternoon, An Garda Síochána said: "The Commissioner is meeting with the GRA and AGSI on Wednesday on a number of matters including the violent protest on Saturday."

The Garda Representative Association had earlier requested an urgent meeting with the commissioner and Minister for Justice to discuss the type of risk and injury that members were exposed to on Saturday.

Garda Damien McCarthy said that based on information he has this was a well-planned and organised event designed to inflict harm and injury on members.

The GRA representative for the Dublin South Central Division said it was only through sheer luck that more members did not sustain more serious injury.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said that these serious matters need to be addressed without further delay, and members of An Garda Síochána must be pushed up the vaccine priority list.

Garda McCarthy said members had very limited information ahead of protests, and that the people who congregated in Dublin city did not liaise or cooperate with An Garda Síochána. 

He said this hindered the amount of preparation that gardaí could undertake. 

Garda McCarthy said it was "clear from the get go" that protesters on Grafton Street were intent on inflicting harm and injury on gardaí.

He said they had a total disregard for public health guidelines, as well as people's health and well-being. He said there is a serious challenge in terms of the resources available to gardaí.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he is concerned about groups being formed on social media to find, organise and encourage people to disobey public health laws.

He said he will be writing to the digital platforms to press them on their responsibility to moderate and remove content that encourages such behaviour.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the protest that happened in Dublin at the weekend cannot be condoned, should not have happened and should not happen again.

"The silent majority in this country are fed up, they're annoyed, they do not want this pandemic to be going on a day longer than it has to," he said.

Fianna Fáil's justice spokesperson said social media companies need "to get their house in order to ensure that irrespective of your views on the restrictions, if there is an unlawful event and the social media companies are aware it's unlawful, they can't facilitate the publication of that".

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Jim O'Callaghan described Saturday's protect as "an unlawful event" and said there is a need to look at how it was organised and publicised.

He said: "We need to recognise that the organisation of it was facilitated, to a large extent, by social media companies and I think that's an area we need to look at."

He said the definition in the Health Act of an event organiser includes someone involved in publicising that event and he said he is sure gardaí will be looking at the role played by social media, notwithstanding the protection they have under the e-Commerce Directive.

Meanwhile, former assistant garda commissioner Pat Leahy said there have been protests throughout the pandemic and gardaí are caught between a rock and a hard place in such situations.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Pat Leahy said that gardaí are generally good at engaging with stakeholders, including protest organisers, but on this occasion, protesters did not engage with gardaí.

Mr Leahy said gardaí did not provoke but reacted to a situation that was designed to cause serious harm to members.

He added gardaí acted in a timely and measured way and he believes that public support is on their side. He pointed out that they did not use full riot gear, despite knowing there was the potential for violence.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu said that there was a lot of discord and disinformation circulating about the protests over the weekend.

She said that she noticed that certain footage was cut online to show gardaí reactions in a bad light and remove images of protesters provoking them.

Ms Chu said that she has spoken with Twitter and it is hoped the social media company will roll out a series of measures to counteract this disinformation in the future.

She said the company has a new project in place to get more civilian input into how to report and get this disinformation offline.

Ms Chu said she has spoken with Facebook's former head of policy on the matter and no one is trying to curb anyone’s right to free speech, but that when lies are being spread that become dangerous, tech platforms must engage and address the issue.