BANTRY gardaí are investigating an incident which saw more than 100 anti-mask protestors gather at a Mealagh Valley amenity area for a protest rally last Sunday.
Locals reported seeing a large volume of cars arriving at the woods from about 2pm on the sunny bank holiday Sunday. Visitors who planned to walk the 3km loop through the woodland turned back after seeing the rally in action.
Some locals said they felt ‘intimidated’ by the sheer volume of the crowd, because between 2pm and about 6pm the car park became full with about 50 cars, while 25 more were parked along the narrow approach road.
Anyone seeking to access the amenity would have had to pass through a crowd of between 100 and 150 unmasked people – some of whom had placards – and were crowded into a small picnic area that offered little space for social distancing.
The landowner, Quentin Gargan, spoke to The Southern Star about the incident. He pointed out that the Mealagh Woods is ‘a public amenity aon private land, and such resources must be respected’. He claimed the protestors ‘trampled the rights of others’ who wanted to simply ‘enjoy a walk’.
Instead, he said, they had to listen to speeches made by megaphone – the sound of which could be heard across the valley.
One onlooker claimed the event – which involved speeches, individual picnics, and a celebration of gathering without restrictions – also resulted in a show of aggression towards the gardaí.
Supt Ronan Kenneally confirmed the gathering to The Southern Star but said ‘no incidents’ were reported. He said the matter is still under investigation by the Bantry detective branch, which is examining any possible breaches of Covid-19 regulations.
Mr Gargan said that everyone is welcome to the woods as individuals, ‘but not as a flash mob with a megaphone.’ He spoke to two of the protestors and they denied knowing who organised the event, other than to say they had been informed of the happening ‘by a friend’.
Meanwhile, anti-mask posters which appeared in Baltimore on April 26th, referring to a ‘Coup-19’, the so-called ‘Police State’ and ‘Fear and Social Control’ were later removed.