Dublin set alight
Dublin set alight


The dysfunctional nature of policing in Ireland has been dramatically exposed by some of the worst street violence seen in living memory.

The head of Ireland’s police force, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, has said he has “no intention” of resigning, despite a series of failings over the rioting which saw millions of euros of damage caused to public infrastructure and shops looted.

The scenes last Thursday, which made headlines across the world, have put pressure on the coalition government to acknowledge its inability to maintain safety in the Irish capital.

Sinn Féin has called on the Commissioner and Justice Minister Helen McEntee to resign, but the pair have so far refused to go.

The chaotic sequence of events began on Thursday, 23 November, with an attack by a knife-wielding maniac against children emerging from a city centre Irish-medium primary school, Gaelscoil Choláiste Mhuire.

The attack happened as pupils emerged from the school on Parnell Square. Bystanders disarmed a man and pinned him to the ground, with several kicking him, but not before three children and a childcare worker were stabbed.

Reports that the still-unnamed man behind the attack was an Algerian-born naturalised Irish citizen lit the touch-paper of right-wing agitation over immigration and presented a powerful opportunity for rioting and looting.

Fascists in both Ireland and Britain were able to summon a violent mob to the centre of Dublin far in excess of the capacity of Gardaí to response.

Rioters clashed with Gardaí on Cathal Brugha Street, launching fireworks, bottles and other projectiles before smashing the windows of the Holiday Inn hotel.

A Luas tram and a double-decker bus were set on fire and premises on O’Connell Street were looted.

An estimated 500 people were involved in the disorder in which 13 shops were significantly damaged or looted and eleven Garda cars were damaged.



Online, many right-wing accounts seemed to revel in the violence, with mixed-martial arts fighter Conor McGregor tweeting: “You reap what you sow.”

Nick Griffin, former president of the British National Party, falsely told his followers the Irish Army was on the streets with armoured personnel carriers.

Extreme unionist figures based in England gleefully spoke about the Irish “rising up” and suggested McGregor as a potential leader for the violent mob.

But the almost complete absence of a credible Garda response proved to be the most frightening outcome, as several Garda cars were attacked and burned, and some Gardaí left to fend off thugs for their own survival.

Fears of Dublin residents that their city has spiralled fully out of control were driven home by the absence of a political response and the shoulder-shrugging of the Garda Commissioner, a former chief in the RUC Special Branch and an alleged MI5 asset.

Mary Lou McDonald called for resignations, saying the Gardaí on the ground had been let down and overwhelmed by a “mob fuelled by hate”.

The Sinn Féin leader 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 Gardaí 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.”


She added that people do not feel safe in parts of Dublin’s inner city.

“The events were unprecedented, the viciousness of the attack on the young children and the childcare worker, and then the ensuing violence, which was predictable, which was organised, which was not the first occasion upon which violence had been instigated by some of these elements,” she said.

“This is just part of a wider pattern that has been the reality for the last year, the last 18 months, in truth probably since the Covid lockdown.

“The truth is the Minister and the Commissioner have failed to resource the Gardaí correctly. They have failed to bring forward plans for the safety of citizens.

“We now have a scenario where people do not feel safe in parts of Dublin’s inner city – that includes children going to school, their parents and grandparents dropping them off, it includes people going to work, people who visit the city, and we are now at a point where the position of the Minister and the Commissioner are simply untenable.”

She added: “The days of excuses or dodging the realities on the ground by the Minister, by the Government or by the Garda Commissioner are over. People have been patient with them.”

Ms McDonald has said the Gardaí should have had a plan which would have “nipped in the bud” the assembly of people who rioted in Dublin city centre.

She said: “That didn’t happen. Some of that was around resources and capacity, others it seemed were around decision-making and leadership.”


Confidence in Harris fell further as he continued to deny the force had lost control while pursuing severe restrictions on civil rights.

Appearing before a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, Harris claimed there was “no failure” by the force’s handling of the “uncontrollable” riot.

“They did a good job in terms of protecting the scene and gathering sufficient resources to deal with the riot in front of them,” he said.

For years, there had been growing concern over lawlessness in Dublin city centre, the absence of Garda resources amid a sharp rise in inequality and deprivation. In July, a savage attack by teenagers which left a US citizen in a coma brought international attention to the scale of the problem.

Despite the public sense of crisis, Commissioner Harris still appears not to grasp the problem. In a worrying insistence on political policing, he again backed authoritarian control measures such as a crackdown on undefined ‘hate speech’ and the censoring of smartphone applications and online messaging.

In his fraught appearance before a parliamentary committee, Harris said that 38 people had been arrested and “some of these individuals are undoubtedly a danger to society”. He called for the use of facial recognition technology and futuristic artificial intelligence technology to build a database of potential suspects.


But there is no sign protests at the hated immigration policies of the Dublin government will slow, become less violent or more contained.

Last May, in an incident which caused widespread unease, Gardaí allowed racists to set fire to tents being used to provide shelter to immigrants near a processing centre in Dublin. Gardaí were also criticised for failing to intervene after protesters set up a ‘vigilante’ blockade outside a hotel housing asylum seekers in Inch, County Clare.

And Harris’s disastrous ‘hands-off’ approach to right-wing protests was also blamed when politicians were jostled outside the national parliament in late September after the summer break and protesters erected a mock gallows covered with images of political figures including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

And there are suspicions that Harris and McEntree are still happy to have working-class inner-city communities direct their anger at left-wing politicians. On Tuesday, anti-immigration protestors targeted a constituency meeting by Mary Lou McDonald and a Palestine solidary event organised by People before Profit.


Yet there is never any shortage of Garda resources when it comes to disrupting the entirely peaceful activities of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA).

Following a meeting of IRPWA representatives from Dublin and Derry, republicans were stopped in their respective cars as they made their way home.

During one of the stop and searches carried out by the MI5-led Garda ‘Special Detective Unit’, one Dublin IRPWA representative was forced to stop his car by gun wielding plain clothed Garda. He was then handcuffed and held at the side of the road as his car was ransacked, all while still being held at gunpoint.

IRPWA representatives from Derry were stopped separately on a motorway leaving Dublin and subjected to a stop and search by plain clothed, armed Garda.

The IRPWA said the attempts to stifle republican activism would continue to fail.

“Despite these attacks, we again go on record to make it clear that no amount of harassment will deter IRPWA activists from continuing their sterling work on behalf of Republican Prisoners and within working class communities.”

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