Feud fears sees armed garda unit on standby as up to 500k set for Fleadh
All annual leave has been cancelled for Louth gardai and national support has been called in as Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann began in feud-ridden Drogheda yesterday.
Organisers said that despite recent violence and antisocial behaviour, the traditional music event has brought the town of Drogheda together.
Lolo Robinson, chairperson of the Fleadh, told the Herald there is a strong sense of goodwill as festivities begin.
"It has awakened a sense of community in the town over the last two years, the most I've ever felt," said the Drogheda-born woman.
"There is a real sense and feeling of goodwill in the town."
Ms Robinson said it is hoped this year's event will break last year's attendance record of 500,000.
President Michael D Higgins opened the festival yesterday in the town where the "best of the best" in traditional Irish music and dance will be competing throughout the week in the All-Ireland competition.
Garda Superintendent Andrew Watters, of Drogheda garda district, said there is a detailed policing plan in place for the "family-orientated event".
It has seen all annual leave cancelled for every garda in the Louth division, while divisional and national units also feature in "a comprehensive policing plan".
The national units include the mounted unit, as well as the underwater unit for the River Boyne.
He said the 25 additional gardai allocated to Drogheda since last year's Fleadh have had a positive effect and allowed him to put gardai on the beat "in the housing estates on the outskirts of the town where a lot of the feud-related issues have been ongoing".
He said the armed response unit "are with us 24/7 in the Drogheda district."
Gardai have confirmed one person was charged with public order offences after an incident in Drogheda on Friday night.
The incident involved a large group of people and happened at a premises before continuing on West Street, the main thoroughfare in the town.
Gardai also confirmed one officer received a minor facial injury.
Footage of the assault on the garda, as he lay on the ground, was recorded by bystanders who then posted it on social media.
The Garda Representative Association spokesperson for Louth, Garda Derek O'Donoghue, said: "It is a miracle that the garda did not require hospitalisation.
"It is a stark reminder of the dangers faced every day by members of An Garda Siochana when they turn up for work.
"No one knows what the day will bring. Thankfully no one was seriously injured," he added.
The garda press office confirmed five people were arrested and said three males received adult cautions, there was one junior liaison officer referral and one person was charged with public order offences.
"One garda member received a minor facial injury. No other injuries were reported," it said.