Riot damage could cost tens of millions of euros, Leo Varadkar says

‘Those involved brought shame on Dublin, brought shame on Ireland,’ the Irish premier said in an address to the nation.

David Young
Friday 24 November 2023 16:26 GMT
A burned-out bus is removed from O’Connell Street in Dublin, in the aftermath of violent scenes in the city centre on Thursday (Brian Lawless/PA)
A burned-out bus is removed from O’Connell Street in Dublin, in the aftermath of violent scenes in the city centre on Thursday (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Wire)

Damage to public infrastructure in Dublin could cost tens of millions of euros to repair, Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said.

Politicians have strongly criticised the violent scenes in Dublin that saw Garda cars, buses and trams set alight and shops looted and damaged.

The clean-up was continuing on Dublin’s thoroughfare O’Connell Street on Friday, with burned-out buses lifted away by cranes while broken glass and missiles were cleared.

The violence in the Irish capital, which involved far-right elements, flared after a knife attack on three schoolchildren and their care assistant outside a school in the north inner city at about lunchtime on Thursday.

Mr Varadkar said an estimated 500 people were involved in the disorder and it was important to back the police force amid the riotous scenes.

But the leader of the main opposition party, Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald, has called on Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Ireland’s Justice Minister Helen McEntee to resign, saying gardai lost control of the city to a “mob fuelled by hate”.

Some 13 shops were significantly damaged or subjected to looting and 11 Garda cars were damaged.

Some Garda members were injured as 400 officers responded to the unrest.

More than 30 people were due to appear in court on Friday, charged with offences relating to the misuse of drugs, theft and public order.

Asked about the scale of the damage, at a meeting of the British-Irish Council at Dublin Castle, Mr Varadkar said: “We don’t have a figure on it yet, but it’s likely to be in the tens of millions, rather than the millions.”

He said there was a discussion with the Garda Commissioner on Thursday on whether to deploy the Irish military as the violence unfolded, but it was deemed that it “wasn’t warranted”.

“I’ll be talking to business groups this afternoon and, of course, there will be government help available to help them with the cost of repairing the damage, but we just have to work out the details of that,” he added.

He added: “Our advice is that it is safe to come into the city. The riots that occurred last night only occurred in a relatively small part of it, thankfully, and were contained within hours.

“While some shops may not be open the vast majority are, and we’re saying to people it is safe to come into the city, and that there will be a heightened Garda presence.”

A five-year-old girl injured in the knife attacked remained in a critical condition in hospital on Friday while the female care assistant, in her 30s, was in a serious condition.

The two other children, a five-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, suffered less serious injuries. That girl remained in hospital on Friday but the boy has been discharged.

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

Politicians and police have hailed as heroes members of the public who intervened to halt the attacker at the scene on Parnell Square East, including a Brazilian Deliveroo driver.

On Friday Mr Varadkar said Dublin had witnessed “two terrible attacks” on Thursday.

“The first was an attack on innocent children, the second an attack on our society and the rule of law,” he said at Dublin Castle.

“Each attack brought shame to our society and disgrace to those involved and incredible pain to those caught up in the violence.

“As Taoiseach, I want to say to a nation that is unsettled and afraid, this is not who we are, this is not where we want to be, and this is not who we will ever be.”

He added: “Those involved brought shame on Dublin, brought shame on Ireland and brought shame on their families and themselves.

“These criminals did not do what they did because they love Ireland. They did not do what they did because they wanted to protect Irish people. They did not do it out of any sense of patriotism, however warped.

“They did so because they’re filled with hate, they love violence, they love chaos and they love causing pain to others.”

Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove, who attended the meeting at Dublin Castle, said the scenes in Dublin were “unacceptable wherever it occurs”, while Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf praised gardai for “running towards danger when the rest of us would run away”.

Mr Yousaf said it was important to consider whether we “are appropriately challenging the narrative of any extremists, whether they’re on the far right or elsewhere, and challenging any narrative that seeks to divide us”.

Mr Harris said some officers had been injured, one seriously, as he blamed the disorder on far-right “hooligans”.

Mr Harris denied the riots were “a failure of personnel” and said order was restored between 8.30pm and 9pm.

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

Ireland’s Tanaiste Micheal Martin paid tribute to gardai and all emergency workers, who he described as having put themselves in harm’s way “to deal with the actions of a small minority in our society”.

“And I would say that this is not who we are as a people, Ireland has built a modern and inclusive society. It is something precious that we should all work to hold,” the Tanaiste said.

“We understand the need to respect others, the need to respect differences and the need to respect the dignity of every human being. This is something that we should hold precious and we should collectively as a society come together to recommit to those fundamental values.”

Ms McEntee said there was “very strong legislation”, including prison sentences of up to 12 years for those convicted of attacking gardai.

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

However, Ms McDonald said she had “no confidence” in Ms McEntee or Mr Harris.

Ms McDonald said there had been a “an unacceptable, unprecedented collapse in policing” and that a problem leading to Thursday’s riot had been “building for months”.

“I do not say the following lightly, but it must be said. I have no confidence in how Dublin is being policed,” she said.

“The people of this city have the right to be safe on their streets, in their homes and in their communities.

“The gardai have my full support but, given the catastrophic operational failures last night, I have no confidence in the Justice Minister, and no confidence in the Garda Commissioner.”

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