Dublin is ‘safer’ than other cities and street violence is not increasing, says Drew Harris

Garda Commissioner tells Irish Times gardaí more successful at identifying violent attackers than police in other major cities on Continent

Violent attacks in Dublin have not increased, despite the public narrative to the contrary, and Dublin city centre is safer than other European cities, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.

“Undoubtedly, we’ve had very serious incidents, nobody denies that. But is that the same as lawlessness? Those are two different things,” he said.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Harris noted suspects had been identified and charged in relation to most of the recent attacks in central Dublin.

“I know we’re being compared to other European cities, I’m not sure every city could say they’ve had the same success in terms of identifying perpetrators,” he said, adding the Garda response to the recent attacks in Dublin had been very swift and was “within 20 seconds on one occasion”.


While significant concern had been expressed about violence in central Dublin, including serious beatings and robberies in Temple Bar, Talbot St and a stabbing on Grafton St last weekend, Mr Harris said “we are safer” in Dublin than in other European cities.

His comments come as senior Garda officers on Wednesday met business representatives from Dublin city for talks around improving the sense of public safety. The business representatives were outlining their concerns and ideas, while Garda management was setting out its policing plan for the city to year end.

While Garda numbers have dropped – from a record high of 14,750 in early 2020 to just under 13,900 at present – security sources pointed out Garda recruitment had recommenced after being halted due to the pandemic. They believed Garda numbers would stabilise this year before growing again next year. The same sources said an extra €10 million, from the Government, for Garda overtime in Dublin to year end would help offset the impact of lower Garda numbers in the short term.

However, despite a highly charged public debate around perceived increased violence on the streets this year, figures obtained by The Irish Times from the Garda show attacks in Dublin have not increased and are marginally lower. There were 2,353 assaults in public places in Dublin in the seven-month period to the end of July. This compares with 2,429 in the same period last year and 2,535 in 2019, the most recent comparable period before the pandemic.

While seeking to bring, what he sees as, perspective to the discourse around violence in Dublin, Mr Harris said he recognised there was genuine concern about falling perceptions of safety in the city. He also said the victims of some of the recent violence had suffered serious injuries and that people wanted to see a more visible Garda presence in the city. He believed concern around the need for higher visibility policing was now much stronger than in recent years.

The Garda was responding to those concerns by using the Government’s €10 million overtime budget top-up to resource 20,000 extra Garda shifts in Dublin to year end. That money would help fund a policing surge that also included the Public Order Unit, with the Garda Dog Unit, armed gardaí and other units as backup for their frontline colleagues if required.

“Where we want to go next relates to the visibility that we have in the city centre,” he said. “That seems to be a particular issue. We recognise the importance of visibility and giving people assurance. I do recognise people’s concerns and what’s being voiced – there have been very serious incidents. But I’d also point to the fact that individuals have been charged in respect of those [attacks]. So there’s not a free run for people in the city.”

He said in a city like Paris, the threats and policing challenges were such that “platoons” of riot squad officers were required all the time, with the threat from terrorists also a constant risk in many European cities.

He also believed the Dublin attacks that had, at times, dominated news coverage in Ireland in recent months would did not receive the same media attention in other cities, even those in the UK comparable in size to Dublin. While central Dublin had been the focus of late, other locations posed considerable public order challenges.

“There are plenty of other places in Dublin that suffer from antisocial behaviour and other crimes as well, so we do need to keep a focus on the whole Dublin Metropolitan Region and we are doing that,” he said, adding the €10 million overtime package to year end was for all of Dublin, though the city centre would be a particular focus.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times