A total of 48 people have been arrested in Dublin city over the past two days and the Garda will remain on high alert to prevent any repeat of the violence that hit the city on Thursday night, the Minster for Justice has said.
In a statement, Helen McEntee said she had been briefed on Saturday afternoon by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris on policing plans in place for the city centre, to ensure there was no repeat of the rioting in recent days.
“A total of 48 arrests have been made in the city since Thursday and a high visibility policing plan is in place throughout the weekend, including the deployment of four public order units,” she said.
The Garda dog and mounted unit had been deployed, with two water cannons now available for gardaí to use, she said. The Minister said she had provided funding for additional Garda overtime in Dublin city.
“The commissioner and I continually assess what more can be done to support An Garda Síochána, either through additional resources or legislation,” she said.
“I want to again be clear that the thuggery we saw on Thursday will not be tolerated and, as Minister for Justice, An Garda Síochána, including Commissioner Harris, have my full support to maintain order. Those responsible will be brought to justice,” she said.
Garda sources had expressed concern about a possible protest by the far right being planned for Dublin city centre on Saturday evening, with public order units on standby to respond quickly to any unrest.
However, by 7pm no protest had materialised.
The city centre was busy, with people out Christmas shopping and socialising.
There was a heavy and highly visible Garda presence on the streets. Public order vans were stationed at the Spire on O’Connell Street, the bottom of Grafton Street and other locations, with large numbers of gardaí on patrol.
Pressure was mounting on the Government and the Garda on Friday night in the wake of Thursday’s riots in Dublin as Ms McEntee insisted she would not resign and Mr Harris denied there were “personnel failures” inside the force.
Violence flared in the wake of the stabbing of three children and a carer on Parnell Square East at lunchtime on Thursday.
A five-year-old girl injured in the knife attack outside a school 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. Both have now been discharged from hospital.
The chief suspect in the stabbing attack remains in hospital, and gardaí have been stationed there. There have been reports of credible threats to the individual’s life.
[ ‘I used my helmet as a weapon to stop him’: Brazilian Deliveroo rider intervened in knife attack at school on Parnell Square ]
On Friday evening, a day after the rioting, a large-scale policing operation was again in place across Dublin city, including mobile public order units travelling in fleets of vans.
Gardaí said a small number of arrests were made on Friday evening on O’Connell Street during an operation aimed at preventing a group from gathering on suspicion that they were intent on creating further unrest.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Micheál Martin pledged his support for the Minister for Justice and Garda Commissioner in the wake of the rioting in Dublin.
He also accused Sinn Féin of seeking to exploit the riots for the party’s own political ends.
Speaking in Cork on Saturday, Mr Martin described the scenes in Dublin city centre on Thursday night as “an attack on the State”.
He said the statement by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald that she had no confidence in either Ms McEntee nor Mr Harris was not helpful at a time when Ireland needs everyone to stand behind the institutions of the State.
“I do have confidence in the Minister of Justice and I have confidence in the Garda Commissioner. And the Government’s focus now is on protecting our citizens first and foremost, and supporting An Garda Síochána, and supporting all those who work in our cities across the country.
“This is not a time to be undermining An Garda Síochána or the leadership of An Garda Síochána, because essentially the State came under attack last Thursday with public transport being attacked, bus drivers being attacked and the buses being burned and drivers having to withdraw services.
“We should remember this: gardaí being attacked, shops where workers have to go to work the following morning being looted – that’s essentially an attack on the State, it’s an attack on families, on our society and our community and on our workers, and it can’t be tolerated.”
On Friday, Ms McDonald said that “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. We all know this problem didn’t start last night. This has been building for months.”
But Mr Martin accused the Sinn Fein leader of seeking to exploit what was a very serious situation facing the country, which Mr Harris blamed on a “lunatic, hooligan faction driven by far-right ideology”, all for her own electoral and political ends.
“Sinn Féin believe in exploiting every issue for its own electoral benefit – that’s what’s afoot here. It’s a ruthless approach to opposition politics, and they don’t care who they tear down or undermine to advance their own political agenda – but I think at a moment like this, it was the wrong thing to do.”
[ ‘Seven o’clock, be in town. Everyone bally up, tool up’: How the far right lit the fuse of violence in Dublin ]
The Government will provide “whatever resources” and pass “whatever further laws” are required by the Garda to keep the streets of Dublin safe, Minister of State Kieran O’Donnell said earlier.
Mr O’Donnell, a Fine Gael TD, said he had “every confidence” in Ms McEntee and Mr Harris.
I intend to invite Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to come back into the Justice committee at the earliest opportunity, to continue that discussion and have a detailed analysis on the events of last week
— Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless, who chairs the Oireachtas Justice committee
“We want to ensure that everyone feels safe, and our community and I want to put the message out today that people can go about their business in Dublin today,” he told RTÉ Radio One on Saturday.
“We are very strong on law and order – we want anyone who lives in Ireland, regardless of their creed or where they come from, that they feel safe,” he said.
The public “want all political parties to unite together on this issue, in terms of dealing with this thuggery”, he said.
Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said there had been a failure in the command of the Garda force, which had taken an approach of “appeasing” far-right agitators, despite warnings of the threats posed by them.
Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said there had been a “complete breakdown on law and order on the streets for a time” on Thursday in Dublin.
Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless, who chairs the Oireachtas Justice committee, has said he plans to invite Mr Harris and Ms McEntee to appear before a hearing and take questions from politicians on the rioting on Thursday.
“I intend to invite Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to come back into the Justice committee at the earliest opportunity, to continue that discussion and have a detailed analysis on the events of the last week,” he said.
On Saturday, cafes on O’Connell Street had erected signs indicating they planned to close at 7pm. A pro-Palestine protest that had been due to take place in the area on Saturday was postponed following the rioting on Thursday.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has loaned two water cannons to the Garda following a request for mutual aid from Mr Harris. They will be operated by gardaí if deployed.
A Garda spokesperson said: “Training has taken place to refresh previously trained operators, and water cannons are now an available tactic to public order operational commanders for An Garda Síochána.
“Commissioner Harris thanks the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and all PSNI personnel involved for their offer of assistance and rapid response to his request.”
More than half a million euro has been raised for the victims of the stabbing attack and those who intervened to help when it happened.
A number of GoFundMe pages have been set up, with the highest total for an effort to assist Deliveroo driver Caio Benicio, who intervened in the attack to stop the man armed with a knife.
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