Gardaí fear worsening relations with black community after Nkencho family incident

George Nkencho’s mother brought to the ground in melee with gardaí on Wednesday

Members and supporters of YARI protest outside the offices of Gsoc. Photograph: Alan Betson

Members and supporters of YARI protest outside the offices of Gsoc. Photograph: Alan Betson

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Gardaí and community representatives in west Dublin are concerned an incident involving the family of George Nkencho on Wednesday will further damage the force’s relations with black people.

Mr Nkencho (27) was shot dead by the Garda Armed Support Unit outside his home in Clonee last December shortly after he assaulted a shop worker.

He was armed with a kitchen knife and had, his family have said, been suffering from mental health issues in the months beforehand.

On Wednesday afternoon in an area of Dublin 15, several gardaí became involved in a confrontation with Mr Nkencho’s mother Blessing Nkencho and a 16-year-old black youth.

According to a series of clips shot at the scene, which have been shared widely on social media, several gardaí attempted to arrest the boy, forcing him to the ground.

Ms Nkencho was also brought to the ground in the melee and was underneath gardaí for a short period of time.

The footage incident appears to be broken up into several parts and does not show what immediately preceded the boy being brought to the ground by gardaí.

The 16-year-old, who cannot be identified because of his age, was arrested under section 6 of the Public Order Act and brought to Blanchardstown Garda station.

He was later released without charge and is to be assessed for inclusion in the Garda Juvenile Liaison programme.

It is understood the incident began after gardaí followed two separate males into a housing complex.

The Nkencho family recently moved to the area after leaving their home in Clonee following George Nkencho’s death.

Protest

At a protest outside the offices of the Garda Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) on Thursday, demonstrators expressed anger over the incident, which they alleged involved excessive Garda force.

“There would have been no breach of the peace had the gardaí not been there,” said Fingal Cllr John Burtchaell of the Socialist Party.

He alleged the youth was assaulted in the Garda car on the way to the station. In response, a Garda spokesman said “anyone with a complaint in relation to an interaction with a garda or gardaí can make a complaint to Gsoc”.

“Yesterday was poorly managed,” said Olu Bukola, a friend of the Nkencho family. “It was uncalled for. It shows lack of training.”

Gardaí with knowledge of the incident strongly denied the characterisation of the arrest which is being spread online. They said Ms Nkencho was brought to the ground by accident after trying to intervene in the arrest.

However, they acknowledged the video which is being shared on social media will inflame tensions in the area. “Relations with the black community have been strained since the shooting. This is going to make things worse again,” a local garda said.

“The African community in Dublin 15 have lost all faith in the gardaí and Gsoc,” said Mr Burtchaell, while Ken McCue of Sports Against Racism Ireland said: “Young people on the ground are extremely angry.”

It is understood additional community relations resources have been assigned to Blanchardstown Garda station since Mr Nkencho’s shooting.

“In terms of bias and what they feel, they [young people in the area] still feel the system is against them,” said Obi Odemena, leader of the Igbo union of Dublin.

He says years of work around integration was “damaged” by Mr Nkencho’s death but that “rebuilding is possible”.

“I believe there’s a lot of work that has to go into it from an official point, the police. When they’re working covertly it’s not enough, we need them to come out and make reassuring statements. That’s what the community want.”

Activists, including from Youth Against Racism Ireland (YARI), had gathered at the Gsoc offices to demand a public inquiry into the death of Mr Nkencho and that the role of racism and classism to be examined as a possible factor in his death.

YARI also handed in a letter detailing the results of a survey it conducted of 167 youths, which found 45 per cent of people from black, Asian, or Traveller backgrounds felt humiliated after encounters with gardaí.

Between 29 and 35 per cent of Travellers or people of colour surveyed said they had been stopped by gardaí for no reason, compared with 19 per cent of white settled people surveyed.

A Gsoc investigation into Mr Nkencho’s death is continuing.