‘There is no failure here’: Drew Harris defends Garda response to Dublin rioting

Commissioner says nobody could have anticipated level of violence which followed knife attack on Parnell Square

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has blamed the riots in Dublin city centre on Thursday night on people “filled with hate”.

In an early morning briefing, following widespread looting and destruction of property, Mr Harris defended the police response to the violence and gave an update on the condition of the victims of the stabbing attack on Parnell Square East which preceded it.

The five-year old girl who suffered serious stab wounds remains in a “very serious condition”. Her teacher is also in a serious condition. It is understood one other girl remains in hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries which a young boy has been released from hospital.

Another adult male suffered more minor injuries. The suspect, a man in his 40s, remains under armed guard in hospital. Gardaí are not searching for anyone else.


The Commissioner refused to comment on the possible motive behind the attack except to say it still has not been established. On Thursday, he declined to rule out terrorism as a possible motive.

Mr Harris said after the knife attack, groups “disgracefully” tried to break into and disrupt the crime scene. These were people “filled with hate” who were later joined by others “intent on crime and disorder.”

During several hours of violence, 13 shops were looted or damaged, along with three buses and one Luas. One Garda received serious injuries and several other were less seriously injured.

Thirteen Garda vehicles were burned or damaged. Gardaí arrested 34 people, 32 of whom are to appear in the Criminal Courts of Justice on Friday.

Asked if the Garda had failed in its policing response, Mr Harris said members responded “in an extraordinary fashion” with public order units arriving in Dublin from all over Ireland.

He said gardaí could not have anticipated the response to the knife attack. “Nobody could have anticipated these events.”

The Garda has never seen a public order event like this before, the commissioner said. “I think we’ve seen an element of radicalisation. We’ve seen a group of people who take literally a thimble full of facts, a bathtub of hateful assumptions and then conduct themselves in a way that is riotous and disruptive to our society.”

Mr Harris said “there is no failure here” in regard to the Garda response.

People are being radicalised on social media, he said, adding that the violence was the worst in decades. Many of the individuals involved in the violence are well known to gardaí, he said.

The commissioner said gardaí have to make the assumption that further disruption is going to follow and that he is putting personnel and equipment on standby to respond. Gardaí will also have to adapt their policing response to the increased violence.

There will be a “very heavy” Garda presence in Dublin on Friday, Mr Harris said, but people should not be afraid to come into the city. “We can’t allow the city to be given over to the thugs, to the looters and to the arsonists.”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times