Helen McEntee faces intense scrutiny as fallout continues over Dublin riots

Chaos on streets of capital set to dominate the political agenda this week

Last week’s chaos on the streets of Dublin and the fallout from the riots is dominating the political agenda this week amid continued pressure on Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

She will be centre-stage in the coming days as politicians examine what happened, whether it could have been prevented, and what she is going to do as she seeks to ensure there is no repeat of the violent scenes in the capital.

This morning’s Cabinet meeting is first up.

As outlined in our lead story by Conor Gallagher, Olivia Kelly and Harry McGee, Ms McEntee will tell ministerial colleagues that she is seeking clarity on the use of force available to gardaí in dealing with serious public order incidents.


This is part of a wide-ranging review of how the Garda deals with serious outbreaks of violence.

New Garda supports could include access to new non-lethal equipment, new vehicles, the use of the dog unit, the use of their coercive powers and further training.

The Policing Authority is also being asked to examine how frontline gardaí dealing with such serious situations can be further supported.

The Minister has also asked the Garda to expedite the purchase of bodycams for use by gardaí. The legislation to allow bodycams is expected to pass all stages of the Oireachtas this week. Currently the equipment is scheduled for use by the middle of 2024 but the Government now wants earlier delivery.

Over the weekend, Ms McEntee instructed her officials to expand the scope of her facial recognition technology legislation to include riot and violent disorder.

The draft facial recognition technology law, which the Minister has been working on, will be ready to be approved by the Government within weeks, according to sources.

Meanwhile, a five-year-old girl who was stabbed in the knife attack in Dublin’s Parnell Square which preceded the violence remains in an extremely serious condition in Temple Street Children’s Hospital.

A school worker who received extensive injuries attempting to shield children from the attacker also remains in a serious condition.

Conor Gallagher has a piece detailing what is known about the only suspect in the attack, a 49-year-old man, here.

In the political arena Leaders’ Questions is likely to be dominated by the riots, as the Opposition has their first opportunity to challenge the Government on what happened.

The debate will not end there, as some 3½ hours of Dáil time has been earmarked for statements on the riots later in the afternoon.

Sinn Féin – which has called for Ms McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to resign – is examining its options on putting down a motion of no confidence in the Minister if she does not voluntarily step down from her position.

Its justice spokesman Pa Daly said Ms McEntee should do the “right thing” and resign immediately.

“If she is not willing to do that then the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar should act,” said Mr Daly, adding: “If they refuse to take action, obviously we will look at all our options.”

As outlined in our main story, the Garda Commissioner was before politicians – in this case Dublin city councillors – on Monday where he was told, during a tense meeting, that communities may form vigilante groups to protect themselves from violence unless the Garda cracks down on “thugs” and far-right extremists.

TDs and Senators want to quiz Mr Harris as well and he has been invited, along with Ms McEntee, to appear before the Oireachtas committee on justice as early as this week.

Committee chairman and Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless said members wanted to ask Ms McEntee and Mr Harris “what preventative action could or should have been taken ahead of the riots” as well as on preparations for any future incidents.

Ms McEntee’s spokesman has said she is unable to attend a proposed committee meeting on Wednesday, though she is “happy” to appear at a different time that can be agreed.

The reasons she cannot attend the committee tomorrow include that she is to fill in for Mr Varadkar at Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, is due to attend the Seanad due to a motion there on the riots, and will be back in the Dáil as the Government seeks to progress legislation on body-worn cameras for gardaí.

Ms McEntee will be under pressure for some time yet.

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The Cabinet is due to meet this morning with the response to last week’s riots in Dublin high on the agenda. It is also likely to be another week before the wording for the referendum to delete references in the Constitution to women’s role in the home will go to Government for approval. Our Cabinet tee-up story is here.

Dáil proceedings kick off with Leaders’ Questions at 2pm.

Government business in the afternoon (from 3.54pm) will be as much as 3½ hours of statements on the chaos in Dublin last Thursday.

Sinn Féin have a motion on neutrality reflecting their opposition to removing the so-called “Triple Lock” that limits the number of troops Ireland can deploy overseas for missions without a UN mandate. The debate is due to start at 7.26pm.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe takes parliamentary questions from 9.28pm.

TDs will have an opportunity to raise Topical Issues from 10.58pm.

The Finance Bill – the legislation to bring in measures announced in Budget 2024 – will be debated in the Seanad from 3.15pm.

In the Oireachtas committee rooms the committee on assisted dying will hear from representatives of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), among others, from 10.30am. The committee has a second meeting at 7pm to hear from experts from Australia and New Zealand.

The committee on environment and climate action will hear from Oxfam, Trócaire, Christian Aid, Action Aid and Friends of the Earth ahead of the COP28 climate summit in the United Arab Emirates.

Art O’Leary, the chief executive of An Coimisuín Toghcháin, the new Electoral Commission, is expected to appear before the committee on housing and local government to discuss the upcoming local and European elections and the general election. Harry McGee has some details of what Mr O’Leary will tell TDs and Senators here.

It’s very much “supplementary estimates week” at other committees – ie an opportunity for TDs and Senators to quiz Ministers on why their departments need more funding than expected for 2023. Committees carrying out this work on Tuesday are the committee on higher education (11am); committee on foreign affairs (3.15pm); the committee on children, equality, disability, integration and youth at 3.30pm; the committee on justice (4pm); the committee on tourism and media (7pm); and the committee on transport (7pm).

The full Dáil, Seanad and committee schedules can be found here, here, and here.

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