Senior gardaí promise large-scale arrests of Dublin riot ringleaders and participants

Drew Harris under pressure to make progress in inquiry into widespread violence which followed stabbing of schoolchildren

Senior gardaí have promised large-scale arrests in the coming weeks of ringleaders and participants responsible for the Dublin riots last week.

Commissioner Drew Harris and his senior officers are under pressure from the Government to make rapid progress in the investigation into the widespread rioting which followed the stabbing of three schoolchildren on Parnell Square on Thursday afternoon.

The 49-year-old suspect remains under armed guard in hospital. A five-year-old girl and a woman remain in a serious condition in hospital following the incident. The two other children that were injured have been released from hospital.

Between Thursday and Saturday, gardaí arrested 48 people, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said on Saturday evening. However, only 34 of these directly related to the rioting, with the remainder being for regular public order offences on Friday and Saturday.


It comes with the Government on the defensive after rioting which followed the attack, with concern at ministerial level that the disturbances will place its record on law and order at the centre of the political agenda.

“No doubt it’s housing and crime as the two major issues now,” said a Cabinet source, suggesting it now outranked health as a political vulnerability. Amid sustained Opposition criticism, Coalition sources were bullish about the prospect of seeing off any motion of no confidence in Ms McEntee – but worried that voter concerns about sufficient Garda “boots on the ground” will grow into a significant issue at election time.

There are also fears about the political fallout from any repeat of last week’s violence, with one Minister arguing far-right actors are “sitting in the long grass waiting for when next to strike”.

The Coalition expects to see prominent and visible policing in the city centre, although there are concerns over whether it can be maintained long term as it was over the weekend. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, will hold an assembly at 1pm on Monday in solidarity with workers caught up in last week’s disturbances.

Investigators are also examining social media posts from various accounts to determine if they may have incited violence.

Far-right figures who helped organise gatherings in the city centre are also being examined. Several have since deleted social media posts potentially tying them to the riots. However, sources also warned prosecutions for incitement to violence are extremely rare due to the difficulty of improving intent.

Ms McEntee defended the speed of the Garda response on Sunday, saying it was one of the quickest ever mobilisations of large numbers of the public order unit and other gardaí, with 220 members in full public order gear.

Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless, who is chair of the Oireachtas justice committee, said he hopes Ms McEntee and Mr Harris can come before it as soon as this Thursday.

“I want to give the Minister an opportunity to engage with the committee on what happened and step through the measures that will be taken to prevent it happening again,” Mr Lawless said on Sunday.

The suspect is a naturalised Irish citizen who came here from Algeria 20 years ago. So far there is no indication of a terrorist motive, gardaí said. Sources said the man led an isolated life and drifted between accommodation in Dublin. He is not religious and has no known affiliations to any groups.

The man, who has an address in the south inner city, appeared before the District Court earlier this year charged with possession of a knife.

On Sunday evening, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Ms McEntee and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe met some of those who intervened to help stop the attack. In a statement afterwards the Taoiseach said they had shown “extraordinary courage” in responding “quickly and bravely”, and that he wanted to thank them on behalf of the Government and wider community.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times