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Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera

Dublin riots: What to know about the stabbing attack and clashes in Ireland

A bus burns during a demonstration in Dublin after a stabbing that injured three children on November 23, 2023 [Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]

Protesters in Dublin fought with police, torched vehicles and looted shops on Thursday after three children were injured in a knife attack outside a school.

Here is what to know about the stabbing and riots:

What happened in Dublin and when?

  • Three children were among five people injured on Thursday in a knife attack outside Gaelscoil Colaiste Mhuire, a school for primary-aged children.
  • Police said it appeared a man in his 50s attacked a number of people shortly after 13:30 GMT on Thursday. Members of the public intervened at an early stage of the attack.
  • The man suspected of being behind the attack was also injured and is under arrest. Police said they do not suspect the involvement of anyone else.
  • According to local reports, the attack happened as pupils emerged from the school.
  • After the attack, violent unrest broke out just after 18:00 GMT when a group of 50 anti-immigrant protesters briefly broke through a police barrier.
  • Police blamed far-right agitators for starting the violence. Some shouted “get them out” and one kicked the wing mirror off a police car. Vehicles were set alight and shops were looted.
  • Police said more than 400 officers, including many in riot gear, were deployed in the Dublin city centre to contain the unrest.
  • Ireland’s police chief said on Friday that 34 people were arrested over the riots. Of those, “32 … will be appearing before the courts this morning,” Police Commissioner Drew Harris said at a press conference.
Vehicles were set on fire and shops looted after a knife attack at a school in central Dublin on November 23, 2023 [Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]

Who was attacked?

  • A five-year-old girl was seriously hurt. A five-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl sustained less serious wounds, and the boy has since been discharged from hospital.
  • A woman in her 30s was seriously injured too.
  • In a video statement on social media, Chief Superintendent Patrick McMenamin said some members of the police force were attacked and assaulted but “there were no serious reports of injury.”
  • Superintendent Liam Geraghty confirmed reports that a knife was used in the attack, but he couldn’t provide more details on the nature of the injuries. He also confirmed that witnesses sought to disarm the man as soon as they saw what was going on.

Who was behind the attack in Dublin?

  • Police said the unrest was driven by a “lunatic, hooligan faction driven by a far-right ideology” and warned against “misinformation”.
  • Police would not comment on the identity or nationality of the detained man.

Where did the Dublin attack take place?

  • The attack took place at Parnell Square East in Dublin.
  • Parnell Square East is a Georgian square in the heart of Dublin. It borders the Garden of Remembrance and runs south to O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare.
  • After the attack, a police cordon was set up around the Irish Parliament building and Leinster House.
  • Police Commissioner Harris said 13 shops were damaged or looted, 11 police cars damaged and destroyed along with three buses and a tram.

What are witnesses saying?

  • A witness, Siobhan Kearney said the scene was “absolutely bedlam” as she initially watched events unfold from the other side of the street.
  • “Without thinking, I just took across the road to help out,” she told the Irish national broadcaster RTE.
  • “We got another young man, disarmed [the attacker] with the knife. Another man took the knife and put it away for the [police] to find it.”
  • Kearney added a group of people restrained the suspect on the ground as some of those injured were taken back inside the school.

What was the motive behind the attack?

  • At a press briefing on Thursday evening, Harris was asked about a potential “terrorist link”, and he didn’t rule it out.
  • “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.
  • That appeared to be a slight change in stance from earlier when Geraghty said police were keeping an open mind in terms of the investigation but were “satisfied there is no terrorist link”.
  • Geraghty said police believe the attack was “a standalone incident, not necessarily connected to any wider issues that are ongoing in the country or in the city, and we need to identify the exact reasons for that happening”.
Police say 34 people were arrested due to the rioting in Dublin [Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]

Is Parnell Square East now safe? What is the latest on the ground?

  • According to authorities, Dublin city centre is now calm, but officers are still operating and monitoring the situation.
  • The Dublin City Council Traffic and Incident Management Centre said O’Connell Street northbound is closed while Parnell Square East and North are closed.
  • The Independent reported that people have been urged to work from home on Friday.

What are people saying?

  • President Michael D Higgins said on Thursday that his thoughts are with “each of the children and their families affected by today’s horrific attack“.
  • “We are particularly thinking of the five-year-old girl and the member of staff caring for her who are both in serious condition in hospital. All of our prayers are with each of them for a full recovery.” Higgins also said police deserve “all of our support in dealing with the incident”.
  • Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he was shocked by the incident and also said his government would take immediate steps to tighten anti-hate legislation.
  • “As a country we need to reclaim Ireland. We need to take it away from the cowerers who hide behind masks and try to terrify us with their violence,” Varadkar said.
  • The attack was condemned across all political parties, including the main opposition Sinn Fein.
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was “shocked” by the “brutal attack”.
  • “What we saw last night was an extraordinary outbreak of violence,” Harris said on Friday. “These are scenes that we have not seen in decades.”
  • “I think that we’ve seen an element of radicalisation. We have seen a group of people who take literally a thimble full of facts and make a bathtub of hateful assumptions and then conduct themselves in a way which is riotous and disruptive to our society,” he added.
People gather near the scene of a suspected stabbing that injured three children. in central Dublin [Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]
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