Hundreds of people have been taking part in daily protests outside Blanchardstown Garda station in Dublin after a man with mental illness was shot dead in a hail of gunfire this week by Gardaí in the garden of his own home.
George Nkencho was shot several times by members of the Blanchardstown Garda ‘Armed Support Unit’ on December 30th while allegedly threatening Gardaí. A video shot by a passerby showed him surrounded by armed Gardaí being fired at five times.
Three of Mr Nkencho’s siblings were standing in the hallway of the family home in Clonee, County Dublin when the fatal shots were fired. His sister had opened the door for him to enter the house when he was shot.
Mr Nkencho had earlier clashed with a shop assistant at a shop in nearby Hartstown, before making his way home. said he had been urged to drop the kitchen knife he was holding, but he had failed to do so, and insisted the shooting had came at the conclusion of a “graduated” response.
Chants of “justice for George” echoed around Blanchardstown station as a number of speakers took to a makeshift stage calling for transparency from the Garda Ombudsman investigation into the shooting.
Emmanuel Nkencho, Mr Nkencho’s younger brother said his family was “traumatised” by the shooting.
He said his bother had a “kind heart” but had “suffered from mental health issues” in recent years. “He didn’t really go outside, just to the shop and back. He has his little friend group and that’s it. My brother never bothered anybody, he just got on with his own life.”
Mr Nkencho said he would like to speak directly to gardaí to ask them questions about Wednesday’s shooting. “Why couldn’t more than 15 gardaí disarm one man?,” he asked. “Until I know why, I will not be at peace.”
Princess Toyin Ogunwusi, a family friend, said Mr Nkencho’s mother was doing “horribly” and still would not accept the news of her son’s death.
“The shock is too much for her. The shooting happened right in the family’s presence, they actually have a recording of it. It will be in their memories for the rest of their lives.”
Another friend described the news of Mr Nkencho’s death as “surreal”. “It was the last thing I would imagine would happen to George, that he would be shot by a Garda.
“It feels impossible that this happened in Ireland. We see the shootings in America and say thank god for this peaceful country that we live in, that would never happen here. But now it’s happened and it’s the worst feeling.”
Mr Nkencho has also been the subject of a major smear campaign to depict him as a violent, serial convict, despite the fact was that he has never been convicted of any offense. The disinformation effort was unusual for its speed and intensity, and was rejected by the Gardaí themselves.
In a statement, which was issued through the family’s lawyers, his family said that they would be pursuing legal action against “attempts… to sully the character of George Nkencho.”
“He was of good character. He had suffered for many years with his mental health,” the statement said.
The family also expressed concern at the slow pace of the inquiry by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) into his killing.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party denounced the smears and the right-wing groups who were fuelling racial tensions.
They also issued a warning that the Gardai had a “recorded, evidenced” track record of racism and of serious racist incidents.
“Without question if this incident had involved the son of a well-to-do family in a leafy suburb the outcome would have been very different. This heightens the need for serious questions,” they said.
“Ireland has been oppressed by foreign imperialism and domestic overlords for centuries. The majority of us live a life of labour or poverty whilst a minority live off our backs.
“Do not mistake your working and poor brothers and sisters from different races and backgrounds as your enemies.
“Those promoting racist division here are the same people who stood idly by whilst sectarian murder campaigns were waged against the working class in the north.”