Helen McEntee: Minister for Justice survives Sinn Féin vote of no confidence after Dublin riots

Minister was defended by Government colleagues during debate preceding vote


Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has survived a motion of no confidence in the Dáil.

The motion was tabled by Sinn Féin in light of the violence and rioting which followed a knife attack on young schoolchildren in Dublin city centre last month.

Speaking on Tuesday evening before the vote, Ms McEntee said the scenes witnessed last month in Dublin city were disgraceful and said the “thugs and criminals” will be brought to justice.

Earlier on Tuesday, she said she was happy that she had the support of her colleagues regarding the motion while described it a “distraction”.

Main points

  • Ms McEntee’s Government colleagues came to her defence during the debate, with Tánaiste Micheál Martin saying the recent violence in Dublin city centre is a challenge “to all of us”
  • Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said she has full confidence in An Garda Síochána but “zero confidence” in the Minister for Justice, that her position is “untenable” and that she “must go”
  • Ms McEntee said on Tuesday morning that she is “getting on with my work and there’s a huge amount to be done”
  • Opposition TDs called into question the response of An Garda Síochána to recent rioting and looting in Dublin city centre as well as Ms McEntee’s ministerial position
  • Earlier on Tuesday, X, formerly known as Twitter, disputed claims by Ms McEntee that it did not engage with Government on the riots

Top reads


Our coverage of this evening’s Dáil vote is now over. Thank you for tuning and don’t forget you can read back over today’s developments as they happened below and check out our best reads on the issues under the Top Reads heading.

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Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has survived a motion of no confidence by 83 votes to 63.

Sinn Féin had tabled a motion of no confidence in Ms McEntee, with the Coalition tabling a counter motion of confidence which was carried in the Dáil on Tuesday. There was one abstention.


Voting is now under way in the Dáil chamber.


Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has spoken in the Dáil, saying there is a larger budget than ever before for An Garda Síochána at €2.3 billion.

Ms McEntee says the scenes witnessed last month were disgraceful and said the “thugs and criminals” will be brought to justice.

She says Sinn Féin has been quick to fallback on its usual playbook of division and disunity. Ms McEntee says it’s 12 days on from the riots and nothing constructive had come from Sinn Féin.

“Their mantra is to sack, sue and bully,” she says.

The Minister adds it might surprise Ms McDonald to know “that this is not an episode of The Apprentice – you can’t fire your way out of a situation”.

She says she will not be deterred by Sinn Féin.


Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice says the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has lost the “dressingroom completely” and the people who took part in the riots “probably never worked a day in their life”.

He says the day the Minister for Justice said Dublin was safe over the summer was the day he “lost faith”.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice says while Ms McEntee is a “relatively competent politician” there had to be political accountability.

He says he regrets not being able to express confidence in her and he had to go on what he hears and sees in his constituency, where there are less gardaí on the beat.

“There is a real problem with policing in this State and there has to be political accountability,” he says.

Independent TD Marc MacSharry says he will be supporting the Minister for Justice but the Government must acknowledge there is a Garda morale issue. He says he is in favour of immigration but a unique, bespoke and outlier approach had been developed in the State, particularly since the war in Ukraine, that “middle Ireland is sick of”.


A few minutes ago, former minister for justice Charlie Flanagan said Fine Gael have never been found wanting in relation to the safety and security of the State’s citizens.

He said the party faced down decades of threats from Sinn Féin IRA and the broader republican movement “of a most brutal type”.

The Fine Gael TD went on to list off members of An Garda Síochána who were murdered by the republican movement.

Mr Flanagan said Sinn Féin was again “reverting to type” and putting down the institutions of the State.


Independent TD Mattie McGrath says the incident in Dublin didn’t happen overnight and gardaí have been demoralised.

He says this didn’t happen purely under Ms McEntee’s watch and adds the Government were up talking about their “friend and colleague” Helen McEntee.

“Francis Fitzgerald was a friend of yours too and Alan Shatter, what happened them? I would try looking in the mirror if I was ye.”

Mr McGrath says he will not be supporting the Minister for Justice.

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae says he won’t be supporting Ms McEntee either.

Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae says he can’t support the Minister because she hadn’t supported the gardaí.

Carol Nolan, another Independent TD, says the Department of Justice has failed to ensure immigration entry procedures in the State are robust and that she doesn’t have confidence in the Garda Commissioner either.


Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris says Ms McDonald wanted the people of Dublin Central to #MaketheChange and vote a “popular and respected member of the community” to Dublin City Council.

“That person was the Navan Road torturer Jonathan Dowdall,” he says.

Mr Harris adds that Sinn Féin is following the populist playbook that elected a reality TV star as president of the United States and sent Nigel Farage to Europe.

“Maybe Mary-Lou can join them on their next reality TV show ... I’m a populist, get me out of here,” he says.


Independent TD Matt Shanahan says he will be voting confidence in the Minister and wants to hold the Government to account in relation to the promises they have made in relation to the southeast region.

Independent TD Seán Canney says a vote of confidence in the minister at this stage is “wrong” and gives status to those who wreaked havoc on the streets.


Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín says the number of gardaí has fallen since Helen McEntee has been Minister for Justice while Garda morale has collapsed.

He says recruitment is on the floor and that every day a Garda is attacked while on duty.

Mr Tóibín says the Minister lost control of the capital city on the night of the riots.


Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy says the Government don’t like being held to account, and especially by Sinn Féin.

He says the Government had resorted to mudslinging rather than dealing with the issues communities are faced with.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD says it’s the job of the State to protect people and uphold public safety and when this doesn’t happen, “somebody must be held to account”.

He says the Minister for Justice allowed gardaí to be sent out unprepared and under-resourced. Mr Carthy says we can’t continue with a Minister for Justice who has allowed communities to feel increasingly unsafe.

Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick says the hooligan culture and criminality issues the State is facing runs deeper than law and order.

He says more resources are needed and Helen McEntee is aware of this. Mr Fitzpatrick says she is doing her best and there needs to be a stop to playing political football. He says he will be supporting the Minister in the no confidence motion.


Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan raises previous comments from Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly that the Minister for Justice should be taken out.

He says if a male member “of this House said that about a woman in this House, they would be gone”.

“More shame on you Deputy McDonald that you tolerate that sort of behaviour in your front bench, threatening language against a Minister for Justice, a woman Minister for Justice, who has given her life in service, which is far more than I hear from the people over there,” he says.

“Apology, apology, apology, for what? For the 22 children in this State who grew up fatherless because of the dead guards who were put into early graves by your sister organisation.”


Solidarity TD Mick Barry said he wanted to comment on the Minister for Justice’s response to the riot.

“It’s a law and order response and it will not work. You cannot pepper spray alienation, you cannot baton charge anger at social inequality. You cannot taser the housing crisis or use water cannons to wash away a culture of toxic masculinity.

“The Government has failed to tackle the social crisis, which gives an audience to the far right and brought many young people out on to the streets.”


People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy says his party has no confidence in the Minister for Justice or the Government and “we want the Government to go”.

He says the far-right are turning people’s legitimate anger around inequality and deprivation not against the Government but instead blaming some of the most marginalised and vulnerable in Irish society.

Mr Murphy says the far-right is organising and his party have been calling this out for over a year. He says the Garda have been taking a softly, softly approach and allowed far-right agitators to harass librarians and pharmacists.


Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire says there are less gardaí on the streets and less Garda stations open since Fine Gael took office. He says what happened two weeks ago was incredibly serious but was far from an isolated incident.

The Cork South-Central TD says in recent weeks in Cork there has been a petrol bombing and two shootings, with a number of children fortunate to escape injury.

He says gardaí have been “left to absolute neglect”. Ó Laoghaire says the Minister for Justice is a decent woman and that she has empathy but empathy was not going to put any additional gardaí on the streets.


Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan says she is “absolutely gobsmacked” with what Ms McDonald said about the Government not getting in touch with the school for two weeks.

Ms Madigan says the National Educational Psychological Service was in the school by 2pm the day the attack took place.

She asks Ms McDonald to withdraw the comment as it was “completely incorrect”.

“You have public order Pearse here and Mary Lou Trump. How can anybody believe anything that comes out of your mouths,” Ms Madigan says.


Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman says Ms McEntee is providing leadership on tackling violence against women, “a topic that was left unaddressed by successive Governments for too long”.

He says that suggestions domestic violence isn’t a “real issue” are based in misogyny.

Junior minister Jack Chambers says he has zero confidence in Sinn Féin on justice issues. He accuses the party of pure political exploitation.

Mr Chambers says Sinn Féin seek to politicise policing at every turn, north and south. He says they continuously sow division in communities by undermining the gardaí and Garda Commissioner and adds they sit on the fence when it comes to the Special Criminal Court.


Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy says what was particularly shocking about the riot in Dublin last month was the lack of preparation for such an eventuality.

She says since the pandemic it’s clear there has been an alignment between different groups on social media as well as international links with these groups and the far-right.

Her party colleague Gary Gannon says it has been a long time since anyone has felt secure in Dublin city.

Mr Gannon asks who among them would wish to send a teenager into a cinema in the city. The Dublin Central TD says a year ago there were statements heard in the chamber on safety in the city and adds there has been an absence of collaboration with the Government.


Sinn Féin TD Sorca Clarke says there is no excuse for the way Garda were left high and dry the day of rioting.

She says control was lost that day and the event should have been foreseen.

Ms Clarke adds the country needs a Minister for Justice that can ensure the necessary resources are in place to guarantee public safety for all.

The Longford-Westmeath TD also says gardaí frequently seek CCTV footage from her constituency office.


Junior minister Mary Butler also raises the issue of the picture being held up in the Dáil and asks the Opposition party “where is your moral compass or even your basic decency?”

Ms Butler says Sinn Féin’s only objective is to keep the issue in the news cycle in order to continue to snipe and shirk from the sidelines about justice.


Government Chief Whip Hildegarde Naughton references Ms O’Reilly holding up a picture of a man apparently intoxicated outside the school where the stabbing incident took place in the chamber last week.

She says it was a cheap publicity stunt and adds it was posted by the Sinn Féin leader on her social media account.

“A baseless connection was made between someone in addiction being a danger to children and the wider public,” Naughton says.

“An innocent person was put forward as someone to be feared and avoided ... We know the truth now, the mask of Sinn Féin has slipped.

“There clearly isn’t one vulnerable group that Sinn Féin won’t use for their own political ends.”


Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe describes Ms McDonald’s earlier speech as “disgraceful” and at times “disturbing”.

He says she alleged it was up to two weeks before the Government got in touch with Gaelscoil Choláiste Mhuire following the attack, which was wrong and that Ms McDonald knew this.

“Not only is that wrong, you also know that it’s wrong,” he tells his constituency rival.

Mr Donohoe says there is nobody he would rather have as the Minister for Justice than Helen McEntee. He says her compassion, empathy and steeliness in rising to the current challenge is “what we need”.

Mr Donohoe says when the country needed unity, Sinn Féin offered division and that when communities needed stability, the party offered instability.

He adds the Government knows more work needs to be done.


Labour’s justice spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says his party will not be supporting the Government’s motion.

He acknowledges the Minister for Justice has had successes in terms of gender based and domestic violence and hate crime legislation but adds her failures are “not yours alone” and the Government must also take responsibility.

Mr Ó Ríordáin says it makes no sense the Garda force is at the same level it was 20 years ago with a growth in population by over a million people in that time.

He says the Minister’s rhetoric over the last 12 days gives his party “no confidence”. The Labour TD references Helen McEntee’s use of the term “scumbags” and says there wasn’t a youth worker in the city who didn’t think she had made all their jobs more difficult.


Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly says Dublin city centre has not felt safe for a long time and that she has no faith that things will get better with the current Minister for Justice or Government.

She says business owners in the city have been in touch with her about concerns around shoplifting, break-ins and threats to staff.

Ms O’Reilly says it was only in the aftermath of the riots that such business owners were promised a meeting with the Minister despite asking for one for a year.


Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman Pa Daly says his party had “no choice but to bring this motion because the problem is so serious”.

He says Government spokespersons have engaged in distraction and delusion and there has been no solid proposals put forward.

Mr Daly says the Government is out of touch, has lost credibility and is not listening.


Ms McDonald claims in the Dáil that it took nearly two weeks for the Government to reach out to the school community of Gaelscoil Choláiste Mhuire.

Mr Varadkar says Ms McDonald has misled the Dáil and that there was contact from the Government to the school within 24 hours.

He says the Sinn Féin leader knows several ministers got in touch and has deliberately misled the House. Ms McDonald says she will not withdraw the comment. She goes on to say that Ms McEntee’s position is “untenable” and that she “must go”.


Ms McDonald says the streets of north inner city haven’t been safe for a long time.

She says over the course of Fine Gael’s 12 years in Government people have been robbed of their safety.

Ms McDonald says Garda stations have been closed while community Garda numbers have decimated.

She says the Government’s response to lawlessness has been at best to skirt around the problem and at worst to completely abandon communities.

Ms McDonald says what occurred in the aftermath of the stabbing incident outside the school was a “catastrophic unprecedented collapse in public safety”.

She says the riots were entirely predictable and were openly orchestrated immediately following the attack but there were “no plans to respond”.

Ms McDonald says she has full confidence in An Garda Síochána but “zero confidence” in the Minister for Justice.


Minister for Media Catherine Martin says now is not the time to be playing “petty party politics”, to stoke division or seek political instability and it “certainly not the time to be looking for headlines and heads”.

Ms Martin says Ms McEntee has been a “proactive” Minister for Justice driving modernisation of Ireland’s laws to counteract hate crime and hate speech.


Tánaiste Micheál Martin says the recent violence could not be more serious and cannot be tolerated.

He says it represents a challenge “to all of us here”. Mr Martin says the sad reality was the debate has nothing to do with the issues of policing and was yet again solely about Sinn Féin pursuing a cynical and aggressive approach to Opposition.

Mr Martin goes on to take aim at Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and says she ought to be more open when answering questions about her personal support for the political career of a “notorious violent criminal”.

He adds that a remark from Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly to “take out” the Minister for Justice was appalling and hoped she would have had the “decency” to withdraw it.

He says to call for an opponent to be taken out is “not something we should allow to be normalised”.


Kicking off proceedings, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicates the Government is tabling a counter motion to Sinn Féin’s.

He begins by saying his thoughts are first and foremost with the schoolchildren involved in the attack last month and thanks gardaí and frontline workers.

Mr Varadkar says he has known the Minister for Justice for nearly 20 years, that he worked on her by-election campaign and appointed her as a junior minister in 2017.

He describes her as trustworthy, sincere, intelligent and loyal, and someone he turns to in difficult times.

Mr Varadkar says Ms McEntee’s record speaks for itself and that Garda recruitment is recovering, that she negotiated the highest budget for Garda ever.

He said the State needs a tough response to the riots, which was clear. He added that the riots don’t reflect the wishes of the vast majority of people in Dublin’s north inner city.

The Taoiseach describes Sinn Féin’s no confidence motion as a political stunt, unnecessary and counterproductive.

He says removing Ms McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris would be a victory for those who engaged in violence in the capital last month. Mr Varadkar adds that he wouldn’t have confidence in a Sinn Féin member becoming a Minister for Justice.

He says gardaí will be visible on the streets and will do whatever it takes to make people feel safe.


Government and Opposition benches starting to fill, motion to start shortly.


The Government is expected to win the vote comfortably, with the additional support of a number of Independent TDs.

Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan has been offered a pair for the vote and will be able to stay on at the Cop28 negotiations in Dubai.

He had been due to fly home overnight on Monday to vote and then to return on an overnight flight to the UN climate talks on Wednesday, but Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore has offered him a pair.