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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Sam Boal via Garda preparing for the possibility of violence on O'Connell Street last Friday
public disorder

Increased garda presence planned for Dublin city centre 'up to and beyond Christmas'

Commissioner Drew Harris refused to apologise for the garda response to public disorder in the capital on Thursday.

THE CITY CENTRE will see an increased garda presence up to and after the Christmas period amid concerns about security after riots last week.

At a meeting of the Joint Policing Committee this afternoon Dublin City councillors quizzed senior members of An Garda Síochána on their plans to keep violence and disruption in the capital at bay.

When asked by a number of councillors to apologise for the garda response to the riots, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris refused, saying the force did “a magnificent job” dealing with “a very difficult situation”.

Gardaí have arrested 48 people in the city since Thursday and more than 30 have been called before the courts on theft and public order related charges after rioting and looting caused chaos.

“There’s a narrative that we were unprepared for this. That is not the case,” Harris said, rejecting assertions that gardaí were “caught out” by the rapid eruption of public disorder.

However, he added that recent events have shown that gardaí need to “rethink the tactics [they] apply” when dealing with such incidents. “It is a matter of balancing resources that we have.”

Migrant safety

In response to criticism of his approach to the far right generally, following protests at libraries, disruptive gatherings outside the Dáil and attacks on migrants, Harris said that the far right is “nebulous”.

On the day of the riots, misinformation and rumours circulated on social media about the stabbing incident, the people involved, and later the policing response.

Harris said it was “a constant battle” for gardaí and social media companies to combat the volume of posts, but they were “being observed and monitored both from an intelligence point of view and an investigative point of view”.

Children and Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman told RTÉ’s News at One today that security measures at accommodation centres for refugees had been stepped up in recent days.

He said there are “strong protocols” for gardaí in cases where there is a threat to centres.

“This weekend has been a difficult time for any migrant in this country,” O’Gorman said.

“I think we know from other European countries that the far right will always try and use wedge issues to build traction for themselves and we’ve seen that in Ireland over the last number of years.

“During the Covid crisis they used the lockdowns and vaccine scepticism to try and build themselves a platform. They used it against LGBT+ groups as well in these protests and harassment of library staff around the country.

“And we see that happening in terms of the issue of refugees and migrants more generally of people who aren’t Irish in our country and trying to harness concerns and spread misinformation about those issues.”

Early on Thursday afternoon, a man with a knife attacked children and staff members outside a school on Parnell Square. The attack happened as the junior and senior infant children were being lined up to go to the creche for an after-school club. 

Five people, including three children, were injured. It is understood that one of the victims, a five-year-old girl, is still in hospital being treated for serious injuries. A boy and another girl, aged five and six, have since been discharged.

It is also understood one adult female remains in a serious condition in the Mater Hospital. The male attacker was also injured and , as of Saturday, there was no change to his condition.

According to the Garda Commissioner, the stabbing incident was “corrupted” by individuals seeking to spread hatred.

“The escalation wasn’t about that scene itself, the escalation was in respect of those who arrived, a lot of them actually to abuse gardaí and also then to show certainly an element of hate.”

Garda visibility

At today’s meeting, it was confirmed that An Garda Síochána will increase its visibility in the city centre for the next month, and potentially beyond.

By the end of 2023, some 370 gardaí in the Dublin Metropolitan Region will be trained in responding to public disorder incidents – an increase of 150 on last year.

Some opposition parties have called for both the Commissioner and Justice Minister Helen McEntee to resign, arguing that their positions have become untenable, as people feel unsafe in the city. Sinn Féin is considering tabling a motion of no confidence in the Minister.

McEntee said last week that she will not offer her resignation and that she is “determined to maintain momentum” in garda recruitment, amid a severe staff shortage.

The Commissioner said that there are currently 1700 vacancies for full-time jobs in An Garda Síochána.

Both the Minister and the Commissioner have been invited to appear before the Oireachtas Justice Committee for further analysis of the State’s response to recent violence.

Additional overtime has been provided to gardaí in the capital, and an additional €4.4 million has been earmarked for 95 extra garda cars and vans by the end of the year.

A squad car, as well as a number of other vehicles were set on fire on Thursday.

“Those responsible will be brought to justice,” McEntee said.

Gardaí today renewed the appeal for witnesses of the riots. They are currently harvesting “thousands” of hours of CCTV footage and taking statements from gardaí who were at the scene.

Members of the public with footage of the evening’s events are asked to make it available to gardaí.

With reporting by the Press Association