Water cannon secured by Garda after Dublin riots returned to PSNI

Devices on loan from PSNI not used, though requested again in advance of Europa League Final in Dublin next month

Water cannon secured by the Garda on loan from the PSNI after the Dublin riots last November have been returned without ever being used. The Irish Times has learned that, while the cannon were on standby for one far-right event in north Dublin earlier this year, they were not required.

Apart from that incident, where the protest was smaller than expected and where no disturbances broke out, the water cannon were never on standby. They were returned to the PSNI after almost three months in Dublin and were not used during that period.

Garda sources said while the far right remained a security concern, the number of agitators who posed a significant risk was small. The frequency, and size, of far-right gatherings had also declined since a spike in such activity in late 2022 and the early months of last year.

Last Thursday, masked protesters gathered outside the home of Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman. They attached banners to a fence outside the west Dublin property calling on him to “close the borders”. While gardaí maintained a presence, the protest was not disbanded.


Taoiseach Simon Harris has said he plans to speak to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris about how similar incidents in the future are handled by the force. However, Garda sources said while the incident was sinister, the numbers involved were small. They added such small gatherings would never result in a policing response that would include the deployment of crowd control equipment like water cannon.

Despite returning the devices, Garda HQ intends to press ahead with a plan to buy water cannon. In the meantime, the Garda has made another formal request to the PSNI for water cannon in the event they are required for the Uefa Europa League final in the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday, May 22nd.

There were concerns for the security profile of the event as British teams continued to progress in the competition. An all-British final was regarded by the Garda as the most likely fixture to result in violence. However, with Liverpool and West Ham having been knocked out of the competition last Thursday — by Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen — those concerns have eased somewhat.

Of the teams left in the competition, Italian side Roma are seen as the biggest security risk. Their fans — specifically the Fedayn ultras — have become involved in serious violence following the team around Europe. Last month two Brighton fans were stabbed in advance of the team’s Europa League last 16 match in Rome.

In reply to queries, the Garda confirmed the two water cannons acquired on loan from the PSNI after last November’s Dublin riot were returned in January.

“In advance of planned policing operations in the Dublin region during (the second quarter) of 2024, a further mutual assistance request for water cannon was submitted to the PSNI, and the two water cannon are available to An Garda Síochána for periods when required,” the Garda added, with sources confirming the request was made for the Europa League final.

The Garda added that water cannon operator training took place last December for several Garda personnel. With the co-operation of the PSNI, the cannon were now available to Garda public order commanders and refresher training would also be provided.

In the longer term, a business case for the procurement of water cannon was still being developed by the Garda’s senior management team. The decision to buy water cannon was made in the immediate aftermath of the November 23rd Dublin riots.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times