Police arrest 34 people after rioting in Dublin following school knife attack

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said 32 people will appear before court on Friday.

PA Reporters
Friday 24 November 2023 09:19 GMT
Gardai at the scene in Dublin city centre (Brian Lawless/PA)
Gardai at the scene in Dublin city centre (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Wire)

Some 34 people have been arrested after “huge destruction by a riotous mob” in Dublin, the head of Ireland’s police force has said.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said one Garda officer received a serious injury, with “numerous other members injured” as missiles were thrown at them.

He said 13 shops have been significantly damaged or subjected to looting and 11 Garda cars were damaged during the chaotic scenes in the aftermath of a knife attack which left three young children and a woman injured.

Later, 32 people are to appear before court in the city.

A clean-up operation was under way on Friday morning with damaged Luas carriages lifted off the track by cranes and broken glass and missiles swept up off the streets.

Irish Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said there is “very strong legislation”, including prison sentences of up to 12 years for a conviction for attacking gardai.

Ms McEntee described a “very volatile situation” and said there a very strong gardai presence in Dublin as well as monitoring of online activity.

Angry impromptu protests in the aftermath of Thursday afternoon’s attack outside a school in Parnell Square East in the north inner city spiralled into a night of violence and disorder as buses, trams and at least one Garda vehicle were burned, and shops were looted on one of Dublin’s most famous throughfares, O’Connell Street.

There were clashes with riot police as some demonstrators let off flares and fireworks while others flung chairs and stools grabbed from outside bars and restaurants.

A police cordon was set up around the Irish parliament building, Leinster House, late on Thursday night with officers from the Garda mounted support unit in nearby Grafton Street amid concerns the violence may have spread to the seat of Ireland’s democratic institutions.

Shortly before midnight, gardai said calm had been restored in the city.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Mr Harris said there was an “element of radicalisation” in the riots.

He said there would be a “fundamental review of our public order tactics, given the amount of violence” and stressed there will be “significant organisation and mobilisation” to prevent any further violence in the city.

“We cannot allow the city to be given over to the thugs, the looters and the arsonists,” he said.

He also refused to accept that the riots were “a failure of personnel”.

Mr Harris said order was restored between 8.30pm and 9pm, but that numerous officers had sustained injuries from the violence.

Asked about the preparedness of the Garda for the riots, he added: “We could not have anticipated that this would have been the reaction.”

Ms McEntee criticised those who were ” intent on causing havoc, on looting, on rioting and causing disruption”, adding: “they will be dealt with appropriately.”

She told RTE: “Thirty-four people have been arrested. They will, for the most part, be before the court today. There are thousands of hours of CCTV footage that gardai will go through, many didn’t cover their faces, that CCTV will be gone through and they will be apprehended, and they will be brought before the courts as well.

“We have very, very strong legislation – up to 10 years in prison with up to 12 years as well for someone who assaulted a member of An Garda Siochana.”

Ms McEntee said while the scenes in Dublin were shocking, gardai “contained this for the most part to a very small area”.

“This was our main thoroughfare, and I acknowledge that, and I think the scenes are incomprehensible,” she said.

“By midnight last night order had been restored to our city, but this was a violent mob of thugs and criminals whose sole focus was to wreak havoc, and it is a very volatile situation.

“There were a huge number of gardai who were assaulted, who were spat at, who were the victims of vitriol and hate themselves.

“I cannot commend them enough. I think they responded in the way that they felt was appropriate and that was required, and they are trained. They’re the people on the ground who do this day in, day out.

“Gardai will take what happened last night, they will adapt their response and they will make sure that from this morning, throughout the day and over the weekend, there is a strong presence and that they stop any type of gathering like this from happening again.

“There will be a very strong presence on the ground, but they will, of course, monitor any movement, any chat, or anything that’s happening online today.”

On Thursday Mr Harris blamed a “complete lunatic faction driven by far-right ideology” for the disorder.

The trouble came after shocking scenes around lunchtime on Thursday when three children and a woman who was caring for them were stabbed close to Irish language medium primary school Gaelscoil Cholaiste Mhuire.

A five-year-old girl underwent emergency treatment for serious injuries.

The woman was also seriously injured while the two other children, a five-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, suffered less serious injuries.

Gardai said a man who sustained serious injuries at the scene is a person of interest in their investigation.

Initially, gardai said they were “satisfied there is no terrorist link” to the stabbings but at an evening press conference Mr Harris stopped short of definitively ruling out a terrorist motive.

“I have never ruled out any possible motive for this attack… all lines of inquiry are open to determine the motive for this attack,” he said.

More than 400 gardai were involved in efforts to quell the subsequent evening of disorder in nearby streets.

Irish President Michael D Higgins said his thoughts were with those injured in the stabbing.

He said: “This appalling incident is a matter for the gardai and that it would be used or abused by groups with an agenda that attacks the principle of social inclusion is reprehensible and deserves condemnation by all those who believe in the rule of law and democracy.”

Earlier, Irish premier Leo Varadkar and deputy premier Micheal Martin extended their thoughts to those injured in the stabbing attack.

A Garda public order unit was deployed near the crime scene cordon around Parnell Square and O’Connell Street around 6.30pm as protesters started to scuffle with officers and flares and fireworks were thrown at the Garda line.

As the violence escalated, a Garda car was set alight, a Luas tram and several buses on O’Connell Street were set on fire, and a bus and car were torched on O’Connell Bridge.

Rioters looted Foot Locker and Asics shops in O’Connell Steet, as well as Arnott’s department store in nearby Henry Street, as bottles were thrown at gardai in the landmark street.

In a series of co-ordinated presses, gardai dispersed a large portion of the crowd onto nearby roads.

Smoke from bus and car fires filled the air while a Garda helicopter monitored the situation from overhead.

Speaking to media at Mountjoy garda station on Thursday evening, Commissioner Harris called for calm and spoke out against the spreading of misinformation.

He said some individuals were using a tragic event “for their own ends … and a hooligan faction who are only interested in causing damage and mayhem in the city centre and they’re using the opportunity for that as well”.

“I think there’s disgraceful scenes in terms of a major investigation, the maintenance of a scene and the gathering of evidence,” he said.

“We have a complete lunatic hooligan faction driven by far-right ideology, and also then this disruptive tendency engaged in serious violence.”

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