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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Jane Moore/The Journal People gathered for an ICTU-organised workers rally on O’Connell Street to show solidarity after last week’s violence in Dublin

'Hate has no place in Dublin': Workers gather in city centre in show of solidarity following riots last week

The rally was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

WORKERS HAVE GATHERED in Dublin city centre this afternoon in a show of solidarity following last Thursday’s attack in Parnell Square and subsequent riots in the capital.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) called on workers to gather at 1pm outside the GPO on O’Connell Street.

The ICTU said it is encouraging and asking employers in the city centre to facilitate their employees attending the demonstration during their lunch break where possible.

“Today is an opportunity for the citizens of Dublin, people who work in Dublin, to come together to show solidarity for our first responders, our frontline workers, who were put in harm’s way last Thursday night, with the outrageous riots and violent behaviour that we have to condemn and not accept,” ICTU General Secretary Owen Reidy said, speaking at the rally. 

“It’s a symbolic gesture and it’s an opportunity to do just that. We have to challenge this far-right xenophobic thinking that tries to make Ireland a place that’s unwelcome for migrants,” Reidy said. 

“We want Ireland to be diverse and pluralistic and we want migrants to feel safe and welcome in our communities and our workplaces in our society,” he said. 

Reidy added: “Our bottom line is that all workers, whoever they are, have the right to go to work and come home safe.”

Speaking to The Journal at the rally, one man named Tom, who is an immigrant from Romania, said it’s “important to show solidarity”. 

“The entirety of Thursday evening and Friday morning was spent just reaching out to everybody I knew, just double checking that they’re safe and sort of reassuring, not just myself, but everyone else around me that we’re going to stick together, we’re going to try and support each other through this because the last thing we want right now is to be divided over anything,” he said. 

“It’s just really important that we stick together.” 

Another man attending the rally, Brian Hanley, told The Journal that it’s “important that the trade unions show that, actually, working class people are opposed to hatred and division and that it won’t be used to divide the trade union movement”. 

Students Ben and Tomás told The Journal that they were “absolutely shocked” when they saw footage of the violence in Dublin on social media and wanted to show solidarity to those affected by it.

“I felt it was important to show support, especially for our age group as well, to show that we also don’t feel like we are represented by the group that was violent on Thursday, and that the destruction that was put upon the city, and the violence that was perpetrated was not representative of us as a people as a country and as an age group,” Tomás said.

‘Hate has no place in Dublin’

Ben said he felt “physically sick” seeing the rioting in Dublin.

“You always talk about these things, you always see these things happening in different countries,” he said. “It’s just the fear of the far right and it’s the fact that we have the power to change these things. It’s not like this is just something that’s inevitable and we’re just going to allow it to happen. It’s not going to happen. 

Hate and violence has no place in Dublin. It has no place in Ireland. Everybody is a part of society. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.

Phil Ní Sheadhgha, the general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Association (INMO), was one of the speakers at the rally.

She told The Journal that it was important to attend the demonstration to “visibly reject what happened in our capital city last weekend”.

“In the health service, we’re so dependent on migrant workers coming here to help us out, to work with us, alongside us. We work with migrant workers every single day, and they’re an integral part of our healthcare delivery, whether it’s midwives delivering our next generation, right up to end of life care,” she said.

“They are nervous now. They are saying to us: ‘Should we be worried?’ And we are saying no. We are very hopeful that employers will be more mindful than ever, but also that suddenly, we’re going to have a lot more concentration from government and from our security personnel.

“There are instances where people will take advantage and try and have a go at somebody from a different country with a different colour of skin and we reject that totally, and we want to make sure that they feel safe, which is the very least that they should feel.”

A number of opposition politicians also attended the rally, including Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. 

Speaking to The Journal, she said: “I think it’s very important to send out a very clear message from O’Connell Street, in the heart of Dublin, that this is our city, this is a shared city, and this must be a safe city for everybody. If you live here, work here, if you’re visiting here, wherever you come from, you need to be able to go about your business safely in this town.

That’s currently not the case and I say that with a very heavy heart as someone who is inordinately proud of this city. That needs to change.

She said she had spent the weekend speaking to people in Dublin following the attack and subsequent riots. 

sinn-fein-leader-mary-lou-mcdonald-speaking-to-the-media-on-oconnell-street-in-dublin-after-a-protest-about-the-violence-after-rioting-in-the-capital-which-followed-a-stabbing-attack-last-week-pictu Alamy Stock Photo Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald speaking to the media on O'Connell Street in Dublin after the demonstration. Alamy Stock Photo

“There’s a real frustration in people that government hasn’t been listening because what happened on Thursday, the attack on the children at the school was horrific, and unprecedented. The violence on the street, that’s been coming, that’s been signposted, and there’s a real frustration amongst people that it has been allowed to get to this extent.”

‘This can never happen again’

She said that while successive governments had failed to invest correctly in communities across the country, she urged caution around assuming that those who were took part in the rioting were from working class communities. 

“I represent the north inner city. We have lots of challenges, but I can tell you that they’re the best communities, in my opinion, in the country,” she said.

“At the end of the day, this is about respect in all of its dimensions. Yes, it’s about investing in communities, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that this toxicity is a working class thing. It’s not. Working class communities are proud and honest and generous.”

McDonald also said the authorities had to answer how they were unaware that the violence was being organised, saying that people she had met who were not in the city centre on Thursday had informed her that they had seen it being orchestrated on social media. 

Let me tell you, this can never, ever, ever happen again and therefore, we have to have confidence in those that will now lead what will be a big job, but a very achievable goal of having a safe capital city.

“For me, that means the Justice Minister and the Garda Commissioner can’t simply carry on as though it were business as usual. A tipping point was reached. Lines were crossed on Thursday night and now there needs to be accountability for that and I’m hearing that across the community as well.”

Asked if Sinn Féin would table a motion of no confidence in McEntee, McDonald said her own view was that she should resign. 

“If she’s not minded to do that, the Taoiseach as the head of government needs to bring accountability to the situation. But of course, we will reserve all options up to and including a confidence motion.

“But we shouldn’t have to do that. This street was on fire on Thursday evening. I don’t think people had ever dreamed that they would see the likes of this in the main thoroughfare in the capital city. So it seems to me just a matter of basic logic and democratic accountability that there has to be a consequence for that.”

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.

The unrest came after four people were injured in a stabbing incident in Parnell Square, including three children. 

A five-year-old girl injured in the incident remains in a critical condition in hospital.

Two other children, a six-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, obtained less serious injuries in the incident. They have since been discharged from hospital. 

A woman in her 30s, who is understood to be the children’s carer, is also in a critical condition in hospital. 

The suspect of the attack, a man in his late 40s, remains in hospital.

Government criticism

The Government has come under serious criticism and pressure following the violence, with the incidents receiving widespread international attention.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has said that she would not be stepping down, and has defended Garda resourcing.

Speaking yesterday, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said McEntee should resign or the Taoiseach “should act”, and if not Sinn Féin will “consider all our options” in relation to a motion of no confidence.

In a statement today, Labour spokesperson on Workers’ Rights and Dublin Central representative, Senator Marie Sherlock said last week’s events serve as “a huge wake up call and the government must now be put on notice”.

“They must take serious action to resolve what is a deepening crisis or risk further division in our communities,” she said.

McEntee and Harris are set to appear before the Oireachtas Justice Committee to address the violence and disruption seen in Dublin last week. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning, Fianna Fáil TD and Justice Committee chair James Lawless said the committee will be questioning them on accountability and supports.

“The things that strike me are a failure of intelligence, potentially, monitoring social media. It was apparent to many, I could see myself on my Twitter timeline on Thursday afternoon, trending patterns,” he said.

“This is probably the third such incident, admittedly the largest by far, but this has been coming I think for a while. So do the Gardaí have what they need to intercept social media messaging, picking up on traffic and movements?”

He said he also wants to ask about the high-visibility policing seen in the city centre after the riots on Friday and over the weekend.

“A huge amount of people that I was speaking to over the weekend were really reassured and glad to see that,” he said.

“But a common theme was this has to become the norm now. This can’t just be a flash in the pan for a couple of days and then go back to the low visibility that we had before because businesses in the city centre and indeed commuters and shoppers and retailers need to feel safe.”

With reporting by Hayley Halpin