Crowd control at public events in Ireland


Every year many concerts, festivals, public meetings and major events take place in Ireland. Article 40 of Bunreacht na hEireann (the Irish Constitution) guarantees your right to assemble or meet peacefully and without weapons.

However, this right is limited by legislation to protect public order and morality. The law as discussed below prevents or controls meetings that are calculated or designed to cause a riot or breach of the peace. You can read more about public order offences.

The purpose of crowd control at public events is to maintain public peace and order and ensure the safety of all who are gathered. Part III of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 gives the Garda Síochána (Irish police force) clear and comprehensive legal powers to deal with crowd control.

Control of access to certain events

Section 21 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 empowers the Gardaí to place barriers on roads up to one mile (1.6 km) from where a particular event involving a large number of people is taking place.

The decision on the placing of barriers must be made by a Garda who is of Superintendent rank or higher. When the barriers are in place the Gardaí are allowed to prohibit you from crossing or passing the barrier if you do not have a ticket for the event. The Garda may also seize any alcohol or disposable drinks containers or any offensive article at the barrier before allowing you to proceed to the event.

Section 21 allows you to pass the barriers if you are going home or travelling to your place of work. You may also pass the barriers if you are going to any place in the area of the event if it is for a lawful purpose.

Anyone who fails to obey the direction given by a Garda at a barrier will be guilty of an offence and is liable to a class D fine.

Events in the vicinity of the Houses of the Oireachtas

You may not hold a procession or meeting within half a mile of the Houses of the Oireachtas when a chief superintendent or higher ranking Garda informs the organisers of such an event that it is prohibited or where any Garda within that half-mile radius asks you to disperse.

Public order offences and powers of arrest

The Gardaí have the powers to arrest without warrant people guilty of the following offences under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994:

The bystander test

For the offence of riot, violent disorder or affray, the bystander test is applied. This means that if a bystander was present at the scene of the event or offence while it is being committed, they would fear for their own safety or the safety of someone else. No one needs to actually be present for the offence to be committed.

Public place

In the Act a number of offences are included which only become offences if they are committed in a public place. For example, offences under Sections 4 to 9 of the Act are limited to a public place. The definition of a public place is broadly defined in Section 3 of the Act. It includes all public outdoor areas, any indoor area which the public can lawfully access, such as an open shop, public roads and public transport.

Find out more about public order offences. You can also read about the public order offences that may be dealt with under the Adult Cautioning Scheme.

Surrender and seizure of intoxicating liquor

The Intoxicating Liquor Acts set out the rules regarding the serving and sale of alcohol in Ireland. You can read more about the law on alcohol.

Section 22 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 gives the Gardaí the power to search a person going to an event where a barrier has been erected. If the person insists on attending the event, the Gardaí may seize intoxicating liquor or any disposable container or any other article which could be used to cause injury.

This law also allows a Garda to refuse to allow someone to proceed to the event where they refuse to surrender or give up the intoxicating liquor, disposable container or other article concerned. The Gardaí may also require that you to leave the area in an orderly and peaceful manner.

If you fail to comply with such a request by the Garda without lawful authority or reasonable excuse then you will be guilty of an offence and liable for a class D fine.

Further information

Read about the right to protest.

Garda Síochána

Phoenix Park
Dublin 8
D08 HN3X

Tel: 01 6660000; Garda Confidential: 1800 666 111
Page edited: 2 March 2022