Following the news that thousands of people in Dublin had gathered to protest the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died last week in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes, the  appeared to support the protesters when he sent a tweet late last night saying that “racism was a virus” and that “we need to show solidarity” and “come together”. His office has not made any other statement on the matter. 

Tony Holohan, Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer, was today far less supportive of the idea of the public coming together, saying that the protests were a risk to human life. 

Responding to a question put to him by David Quinn Mr Holohan said that, ““we have advice in place to avoid mass gatherings because we think that could increase the risk of transmission of the virus”, and that “for a significant percentage of people it represents a risk to life. It represents a risk to severe illness and hospitalization. 

Mr Holohan said that he understood “that there is a desire in the public to move on” but that now “is not the right time to be attending events” no matter how “well meaning”. 

The public reaction to the Taoiseach’s statement on Twitter was not overly positive, with many users expressing anger that he was not talking a firmer stance on the matter given the sacrifices the public have made in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. Others pointed out his comment made it appear that he supported the breaking of the lockdown and asked how he could expect the public to continue abiding by those restrictions if he himself appeared to be tacitly approving of the breaking of them. 

 

Gardai have announced that they are currently investigating the gathering. It’s understood that they collected the names and details of the event’s organizers during the event, but made no move during the event to stop it despite it appearing to be a flagrant breach of the COVID-19 guidelines. 

Further protests, both in Dublin and outside, have been announced.