Staff and customers of the Arnotts department store that was looted during Thursday’s riots in Dublin have been left “shaken”, according to its chief executive Donald McDonald, who added that the perpetrators should be ashamed of their actions.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said 13 shops were looted during the chaos that engulfed the city centre. Arnotts department store and Foot Locker were among the outlets looted, although the full scale of the damage has yet to be assessed.
Mr Harris said sports shops were specifically targeted, but added that gardaí responded quickly and “were able to clamp down on that looting”.
A range of business representative groups have been called to a meeting this afternoon by Dublin City Council following on from last night’s events.
Arnold Dillon, director of Retail Ireland, the Ibec group representing the retail sector, said there is “massive concern about the impact on retail staff, as well as the cost of repairing damage and replacing stock, and the knock on effect it will have on city centre trade over the coming weeks”.
“Getting staff home safely was a major challenge for many retailers yesterday and many shops have reduced trading hours today. The disorder has significantly affected trade at a key time for the sector,” he said.
“Of even greater concern is that shoppers will be put off travelling into the city centre over the coming weeks. A strong, assertive and visible gardaí response is required. It is vital that there is no repeat of what happened yesterday.
Brown Thomas Arnotts chief executive Donald McDonald said staff and customers were “shaken” by the events, but that nobody was hurt.
“We are all shocked and saddened by the tragic attack of a woman and children at Gaelscoil Coláiste Mhuire in Parnell Square and the subsequent terrible events last night in Dublin city centre,” he said.
“In particular, the images of Arnotts on social media showing that a gang of people breaking into the Abbey Street door shortly after we closed and ransacking limited parts of the store.
“Thankfully nobody was hurt in the events that unfolded at Arnotts and all our team members and customers, while shaken, are safe.
He said teams worked through the night to repair the damage caused by rioters, which it is understood was limited enough in nature.
“Arnotts is Dublin’s department store, it is part of Dublin, so shame on those people last night for what they did to our city and our beautiful store,” Mr McDonald said.
“Right now our paramount concern is for our team’s welfare and safety and we thank them for their professionalism and resilience during the disturbance last night.
“We will engage with the relevant authorities and the Gardaí to understand what actions they are taking to ensure nothing like this happens again in Dublin City, or anywhere we have stores.”
Arnotts is open from 12pm-6pm on Friday, while Eason’s on O’Connell Street also opened at 12pm, although no damage has been reported there.
Richard Guiney, chief executive of Dublin Town, which represents businesses in the city, said the “general feeling is we are not going to be cowered by what happened last night”.
“We’re here to serve the public and we’re going to continue to do so,” he said. “My instinct and my view from the conversations I have is that they are open today and are determined to stay open. I think the city will continue to function.
“What we’ve seen since last night is a really excellent clean-up job by Dublin City Council. The gardaí were also great at liaising with us and making sure staff could get out safely last night.”
Mr Guiney noted the damage and disruption occurred on the eve of Black Friday, when many stores are offering major discounts and would normally be expecting increased footfall.
“Every day between now and Christmas is busy and important,” he said. Traders will do about 35 per cent of the annual turnover during this period.”
The Licenced Vintners’ Association, which represents pubs in the city, said it was not currently aware of any pubs having been attacked. “However all the pubs in the Dublin town area of Dublin 1 were asked to close last night by the gardaí,” said a spokesman.
Dublin Chamber chief executive Mary Rose Burke said the group will meet in the coming days to discuss the impact of the events and to consider what measures are needed to ensure that they do not reoccur.
“This discussion continues a dialogue we have had with Government, both national and local, and at the highest level, regarding the challenges of ensuring that Dublin is a safe place for all, and where everyone can enjoy all the many amenities that the city has to offer,” she added.
ISME, which represents small and medium sized businesses, said the events came as “no surprise” to small traders who deal with “unrestrained thuggery, violence and theft” in their stores on a daily basis.
“Retail staff are not afraid of immigrants, they are afraid of unrestrained thuggery, violence and theft that occurs daily in their stores,” said the group’s chief executive Neil McDonnell.