McDonald accuses Government of ‘brazen arse-covering’ over Dublin riot response

Sinn Féin calls for McEntee and Harris to resign after leaving gardaí ‘high and dry’ during recent violence in city centre

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has accused the Government of taking part in “an exercise of the most brazen arse-covering” that she has ever heard in the Dáil following last week’s stabbing incident and subsequent rioting.

Ms McDonald said she has “zero confidence” in both the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

She said Ms McEntee’s position was “now untenable” and that gardaí were left “high and dry” last Thursday.

“You must do what is necessary now, having failed the people so badly, and remove Helen McEntee as Minister for Justice,” she told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during Leaders’ Questions.


Last week’s stabbing incident involving three young children and the subsequent anti-immigration protest and riots have dictated Dáil proceedings on Tuesday, where hours of statements were heard.

Ms McDonald said she was on the scene last Thursday and did not recall seeing any members of Government “on the ground”. The Dublin Central TD said speaking to countless people they “all saw it coming” in terms of the protest and rioting and the only people who didn’t were those in charge – the Minister, Garda Commissioner and the Government.

Mr Varadkar said he had “full confidence” in Ms McEntee, the Garda Commissioner and Garda management.

Mr Varadkar said Ms McEntee had been “leading” and “extremely active” on the issues of law and order and criminal justice during her term in office.

The Fine Gael leader said calling for resignations was not the right approach and those who took part in the riots would see it as a victory and “may even embolden them”.

“Interfering in who gets appointed to or removed from positions such as Garda Commissioner should not be taken lightly,” he said.

“It should not be taken as the normal cut and thrust of politics. It has consequences and it can be corrosive to the wider justice system and public safety ... Here in this chamber, we’ve seen justice ministers have their reputations destroyed, with the chamber and Opposition acting as judge, jury and executioner, only for those justice ministers to be vindicated at a later date and I do not believe it should happen again.”

Ms McEntee said safety had been restored in the city and would be maintained, with four public order units in place for the foreseeable future.

Ms McEntee said not one person in the chamber woke last Thursday and “could even have even imagined what we would be hearing later on that afternoon”.

Labour’s justice spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said there needed to be recognition from the Minister for Justice that she had “absolutely failed” while an independent report on events last Thursday was needed.

The Dublin Bay North TD said Dublin was “already dying” and now it was “on fire” on the Minister’s watch, “because you don’t get Dublin, you don’t understand her”.

He said many TDs were “unsure” as to whether they should speak out against the far-right as they knew “they would come for us as well” and local election candidates were worried about making their addresses public.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said his phone started to blow up this afternoon as parents collected their children from Gaelscoil Choláiste Mhuire, where the stabbing incident took place last week, as they saw “a person lying on the steps at the ground where that vicious assault took place”.

The Dublin Central TD said the person was intoxicated and had urinated upon himself and there wasn’t a Garda present, despite promises to the school’s principal there would be a consistent Garda presence around Parnell Square.

Minister for Media Catherine Martin said the online safety and media regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, had informed her they had engaged “immediately” with large platforms, the gardaí and European Commission.

Ms Martin said the platforms had instigated their incident response plans and engagement with the regulator was continuing.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times