Violence erupts in Dublin city after stabbing attack targeted young children

Chief suspect for lunchtime attack outside school under armed guard in Dublin hospital as seriously injured five-year-old girl underwent emergency surgery

Gardaí were on Thursday night still trying to establish a motive for a stabbing attack that left three infants and a woman in her 30s seriously injured. One of the children, a five-year-old girl, was left fighting for her life.

In the wake of the attack, teams of gardaí were trying to quell serious violence in Dublin city centre on Thursday night after the stabbing attack.

The suspect for the lunchtime stabbing, an individual whom Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said was a man in his late 40s, remained under armed guard in a Dublin hospital on Thursday night after sustaining multiple injuries in the aftermath of the attack.

Gardaí are trying to determine whether there is any relationship between the chief suspect, a naturalised Irish citizen who has been in the State for 20 years, and anyone at the scene or the school.


One of the passers-by who intervened to stop the attack is understood to have been a Brazilian Deliveroo driver.

In the hours following the incident at about 1.30pm on Parnell Square East in the north inner city, small groups gathered at the crime scene cordon, shouting anti-immigration slogan and other slurs at gardaí.

Their number grew gradually and as darkness fell the group clashed with the gardaí who were trying to keep the crime scene secure at the junction of Parnell Square East and Parnell Street.

Vehicles, including a Garda car and double decker bus, were set on fire. Some gardaí in vehicles were blocked from leaving the area and a number of their colleagues were injured, with fireworks used as weapons against them. A Luas tram was vandalised and set on fire while shops on O’Connell St had their store fronts smashed, with some looting also taking place.

The Garda’s Public Order Unit was deployed, leading to violent clashes. Senior Garda management ordered gardaí from other parts of Dublin and surrounding areas into the city centre to bolster resources in a bid to quell the violence, spreading from around the O’Connell St area.

Garda sources said Thursday night’s scenes were unprecedented in the modern era in Dublin, far eclipsing the violence and criminal damage witnessed during the ‘Love Ulster’ riots of 2006.

The lunchtime attack involved the man, armed with a knife, targeting children aged five and six years and their carer.

It appears they were on their way to an after-school daycare facility when a man who was earlier loitering in the area moved to attack them.

Passersby intervened and overpowered the attacker in a very robust manner and it is understood the suspect sustained serious injuries at that point, though gardaí had not ruled out other injuries being self-inflicted.

The seriously injured five-year-old girl was taken to Temple St Hospital and was undergoing surgery last night.

Speaking on Thursday night in the city, Garda Commissioner Harris said the scenes in the city centre were “disgraceful”.

“We have a complete lunatic, hooligan, faction driven by far right ideology and also then disruption tendency and engaged in serious violence,” Mr Harris said. He urged people in the city to “calm down and go home” and “not to listen to misinformation and rumour that is circulating on social media”.

The stabbing attack at lunchtime was under investigation “but the motive for this is entirely unclear”. Asked if there could be a terrorist motive, he said he could not “offer clarity”, then declining to “speculate any further” on whether terrorism may be the motive.

Earlier Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is currently hosting a dinner for the British Irish Council at Dublin Castle, said that the “nation is shocked”, adding that he was “lost for words”.

He said that he understood there were some “public order issues in Parnell Square this evening” and added that the “gardaí have provided extra resources into the area”.

“What I say to people is that this is a time to think about the children who have been affected here, their families, the wider school community, to make sure we put into place the supports that are needed – that’ll be done in the morning particularly for the school. It’s time to think of them.

“We don’t know exactly what happened here or why and we don’t know what the motivation was and I think we all need to reserve judgment for now. Be assured that the gardaí have the situation under control and whoever was responsible for this attack will be brought to justice

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the child stabbing was an “horrific attack” and “an appalling crime that has shocked us all”, adding that gardaí had a definite line of inquiry and would bring the attacker to justice. However, the scenes witnessed in the city last night “cannot and will not be tolerated”.

They were being perpetrated by “a thuggish and manipulative element” who “must not be allowed use an appalling tragedy to wreak havoc”.

Garda investigators said they were stunned by the nature of the stabbing attack on Parnell Square.

The five-year-old girl, who was seriously injured, was undergoing surgery in Temple Street on Thursday night. The other two injured children, a boy aged five and a girl aged six, were taken to Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), Crumlin, where the boy was discharged after being examined.

The injured woman, who gardaí said intervened to save the children in her care, was undergoing medical treatment last night at the Mater Hospital in the north inner city. A knife was retrieved at the scene and the injured man was the Garda’s chief suspect for the attack.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times