herald

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Schoolboy Facebook riot foiled after parents alert gardai

GARDAI have prevented a fight between up to 75 teenagers being organised on Facebook.

Concerned parents alerted the force after they saw posts about the violence online.

Gardai then sprang into action to prevent the fight between the two groups of schoolboys at a small town.

Officers confirmed that they became aware of the threat after being contacted by members of the public who spotted the plans on Facebook and Twitter.

“Their actions prevented what had the potential to be a serious incident,” said Garda Supt Jim Cannon, at Laytown, Co Meath.

During last summer's riots in the UK, Facebook and Twitter were initially linked to the extreme violence on the streets of London and Manchester.

And today sources noted that the monitoring of social networking sites had now become a daily activity for gardai.

Murder

“There is at least one garda in every station who keeps a close eye on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Bebo,” said a source.

“Websites were closely monitored in the aftermath of a gangland murder in Dublin last June when different factions goaded each other online.”

The Herald understands that in this case, two bands of youths were organising a pitch battle between Drogheda and Duleek. Teenagers from Drogheda, Co Louth, took the bus to Duleek, 8km away, in Co Meath.

It's understood they were to meet a group of teen schoolboys from Duleek and there was to be a confrontation on a green area in the town on January 14. Instead, gardai were lying in wait and took names and addresses when it arrived.

According to Supt Cannon “essentially the civic-mindedness and attention to what was happening in their locality prevented what might have been a serious incident. It certainly had the potential to be one”.

Row

His sentiments were echoed by Deputy Dominic Hannigan, who said the row had been “planned on Facebook”.

“There was no fight because civic-minded people who saw the notices informed the gardai,” he said. Sources confirmed that posts on Twitter also alerted residents in Duleek to what was brewing.

The events in Co Meath show that gardai are taking a major interest in social network sites.

A senior source explained: “It is now almost common practice that when a suspect is nominated and a background search is required, gardai will have a look at social network sites.

“Social network sites played a very important role in confirming that a murder suspect had fled to Spain after carrying out a shooting in Finglas in August, 2010.”

kfoy@herald.ie

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