Gardaí have condemned as “gratuitous thuggery” rioting that broke out in Dublin city centre in the aftermath of a knife attack which left five people injured, including three young children.
Angry impromptu protests in the aftermath of Thursday afternoon’s attack outside a school on Parnell Square East in the north inner-city spiralled into a night of violence and disorder as buses, trams and Garda vehicles were damaged and burned, and a number of shops were looted.
There were clashes on O'Connell Street as some demonstrators let off flares and fireworks at Garda Public Order Unit, wearing full riot gear, while others flung chairs and stools grabbed from outside bars and restaurants.
A cordon was set up around Leinster House late on Thursday night, including officers from the Garda Mounted Support Unit, amid concerns the violence may have spread to the area.
Shortly before midnight, Gardaí said calm had been restored in the city.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris blamed a “complete lunatic faction driven by far-right ideology” for the disorder.
The trouble followed a knife attack on Parnell Square on Thursday afternoon, in which three children, a woman and a man were injured.
A five-year-old girl required emergency treatment for serious injuries, while a five-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl sustained less serious injuries.
A woman who is understood to have been caring for the children sustained serious injuries.
Gardaí said a man who sustained serious injuries at the scene is a person of interest in their investigation.
Initially, the force said they were “satisfied there is no terrorist link” to the stabbings but at an evening press conference, Mr Harris stopped short of definitively ruling out a terrorist motive.
“I have never ruled out any possible motive for this attack… all lines of inquiry are open to determine the motive for this attack,” he said.
More than 400 gardaí were involved in efforts to quell the subsequent evening of disorder in the streets near the scene of the attack.
Garda Chief Superintendent Patrick McMenamin said some garda members had been attacked and assaulted.
He said no serious injuries had been reported by gardaí or members of the public.
Mr McMenamin said the thoughts of the police service were with the victims of the assault in Parnell Square on Thursday afternoon.
Speaking about the riot, he said: “The violence had nothing whatsoever to do with a serious assault which occurred this afternoon on Parnell Square, it was gratuitous thuggery.”
President Michael D Higgins said his thoughts were with those injured in the stabbing.
He said: “This appalling incident is a matter for the gardaí and that it would be used or abused by groups with an agenda that attacks the principle of social inclusion is reprehensible and deserves condemnation by all those who believe in the rule of law and democracy.”
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee labelled the scenes of disorder “intolerable” and said a “thuggish and manipulative element must not be allowed to use an appalling tragedy to wreak havoc”.
“We will not tolerate a small number using an appalling incident to spread division,” she said.
Statement of Chief Superintendent Patrick McMenamin on serious public disorder in Dublin City Centre, Thursday 23rd November 2023 pic.twitter.com/5uqbvPww9I
— Garda Info (@gardainfo) November 23, 2023
Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Micheál Martin extended their thoughts to those injured in the stabbing attack.
The Garda Public Order Unit was deployed near the crime scene cordon around Parnell Square and O’Connell Street around 6.30pm as protesters started to scuffle with officers and flares and fireworks were thrown at the Garda line.
As the violence escalated, a Garda car was set alight, a Luas tram and several buses on O’Connell Street were set on fire, and a bus and car were torched on O’Connell Bridge.
Rioters looted a number of shops in the area, causing significant damage to a number of businesses. As the violence escalated on Thursday evening, some businesses in the inner city took the decision to close early.
In a series of co-ordinated presses, gardaí dispersed a large portion of the crowd onto nearby roads.
Smoke from bus and car fires filled the air while a Garda helicopter monitored the situation from overhead.
Dublin Fire Brigade responded to the fires that broke out.
Speaking to media at Mountjoy Garda station on Thursday evening, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris called for calm and spoke out against the spreading of misinformation.
He said some individuals were using a tragic event “for their own ends… and a hooligan faction who are only interested in causing damage and mayhem in the city centre and they’re using the opportunity for that as well”.
“I think there’s disgraceful scenes in terms of a major investigation, the maintenance of a scene and the gathering of evidence.
“We have a complete lunatic hooligan faction driven by far-right ideology, and also then this disruptive tendency engaged in serious violence.”
Clean-up efforts were already underway on Friday morning, as public transport links to the city centre resumed in time for the morning commute.
Dublin Fire Brigade said firefighters were continuing to dampen down smouldering vehicles in the city centre on Friday morning, adding a recovery and clean-up operation is underway.
In a statement issued on Friday morning, An Post said the General Post Office (GPO) on O'Connell Street will reopen to business from 12pm "to allow time for the clean-up operation in the city centre and the resumption of public transport for customers and staff".
Firefighters from Tara Street and Phibsborough fire stations have continued to damp down smouldering vehicles in the city centre this morning.
Crews are making the scene safe as a recovery and clean up operation is underway. pic.twitter.com/asixMRLkF7
— Dublin Fire Brigade (@DubFireBrigade) November 24, 2023
Having cancelled services throughout the night, Dublin Bus confirmed all services are operating once again.
"Buses cannot serve Parnell Street, Parnell Square, and O'Connell Street, with diversions via Gardiner Street and Church Street," Dublin Bus tweeted.
Red line Luas services are only operating between Tallaght/Saggart and Smithfield, with no services between Smithfield and Connolly/The Point. Green line services are operating between Brides Glen to St Stephen's Green, with no services between the Green and Broombridge.
The transport operator confirmed Luas tickets will be accepted on Dublin Bus services for the duration of the disruption.
Tara Street Station has also reopened following a brief closure on Thursday night due to the riots, with Irish Rail adding that all trains are operating on all routes on Friday.
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