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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Jane Dalton and Amy-Clare Martin

Girl, 5, fighting for her life after Dublin knife attack as far-right blamed for rioting


A five-year-old girl who was among three children injured in a knife attack in Dublin was fighting for her life on Friday as the spotlight fell on far-right groups in Ireland following a night of riots in the Irish capital.

Police chiefs said they expected many more arrest to follow after 34 were held following a night of disturbances when about 500 far-right sympathisers and apparently angry youths on Thursday went on the rampage, causing damage that could cost tens of millions of euros to repair, according to Irish premier Leo Varadkar.

A care assistant was also in a serious condition in hospital after the attack outside a primary school, which some blamed on an immigrant – reports that sparked violence, looting and thuggery.

Around a dozen garda (police) cars were torched, buses and trams were set alight and shops looted and windows smashed.

As Dubliners were coming to terms with the violence, police came under fire for how prepared they were. Garda commissioner Drew Harris blamed the rioting on a “lunatic, hooligan faction driven by a far-right ideology”.

Mr Harris, who said some of the 400 officers involved had been injured, one seriously, denied the disturbances were “a failure of personnel”.

Asked about his force’s preparedness, he added: “We could not have anticipated that this would have been the reaction.”

A man is arrested on Friday
— (Reuters)

However, two water cannons were sent from Northern Ireland to Dublin on Friday to help with policing any further trouble at the weekend.

Irish justice minister Helen McEntee said 34 people had been arrested, 32 of whom appeared in court on Friday. They faced charges relating to the misuse of drugs, theft and public order.

But the leader of the main opposition party, Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald, called on Mr Harris and Ms McEntee to resign, saying garda lost control of the city to a “mob fuelled by hate”.

The violence flared after the attack on schoolchildren and their care assistant outside Gaelscoil Cholaiste Mhuire school at lunchtime on Thursday.

Demonstrators smash a bus with hammers and set it alight on Thursday night
— (Reuters)
Fireworks were thrown at police officers on Thursday
— (Reuters)

A six-year-old girl also injured remained in hospital on Friday, but a five-year-old boy who was wounded was discharged.

Mr Varadkar said it was important to back the police force, and Ms McEntee refused to resign, insisting garda had all the resources necessary to keep people safe in Dublin over the weekend.

Garda were trawling through social media and CCTV footage, she said. And she described a “very volatile situation”, adding: “I have no doubt that many people will be imprisoned after those horrific events yesterday.

“What happened yesterday evening following this awful, tragic act was nothing but thuggery.

Justice minister Helen McEntee says people will go to prison over the riots
— (PA)

“This was a group of individuals who used this horrendous event as an opportunity to wreak havoc in our city, to sew division in our city, they will be responded to with force and garda responded in the most appropriate way.”

The clean-up was continuing on Dublin’s thoroughfare O’Connell Street on Friday, with burned-out buses lifted away by cranes while broken glass and missiles were cleared.

Garda made several arrests in Dublin city centre amid a significant security operation in the area.

By-standers who intervened to halt the attacker, including a Brazilian Deliveroo driver, were hailed as heroes by the police and politicians.

Caio Benicio said he saw the man grab a girl and attack her. He said: “When I saw the knife, I stopped my bike and I just acted by instinct.”

He said he took his helmet off and hit the man in the head with it “with all of my power”.

Delivery Caio Benicio attacked the knifeman
— (PA)

“Later on I found out [the woman] was the teacher. She was very, very brave.”

Garda said a man seriously injured at the scene was a person of interest in their investigation.

Ms McDonald said she had no confidence in Ms McEntee or Mr Harris, that there had been an “unacceptable, unprecedented collapse in policing” and that a problem had been “building for months”.

“I do not say the following lightly, but it must be said. I have no confidence in how Dublin is being policed,” she said.

“This shouldn’t have happened and – let me be very clear – it can never happen again.”

However, Mr Varadkar said the rioters “brought shame on Dublin, brought shame on Ireland and brought shame on their families and themselves”.

“These criminals did not do what they did because they love Ireland. They did not do what they did because they wanted to protect Irish people. They did not do it out of any sense of patriotism, however warped.

“They did so because they’re filled with hate, they love violence, they love chaos and they love causing pain to others.”

Police patrol central Dublin on Friday
— (AP)

Ireland does not have a track record of strong far-right support.

Various factors led to Thursday’s violence, according to Kevin Doyle, head of news at the Irish Independent – with a homelessness crisis and a steady growth in numbers of migrants helping to feed a growing far-right narrative that “Ireland is full”.

“A group of people that arrived at the scene of the attack were chanting things like ‘get them out’,” he told The Independent. “At one point they broke through the garda cordon.

“The people supposedly outraged about the attack actually impeded the investigation.”

Mr Doyle added: “People are worried about it [far-right support] now. It’s definitely a minority but it’s a minority that has caused millions of damage. Tensions are high.”

Windows were smashed
— (Reuters)

The unrest follows two high-profile crimes that rocked Ireland – Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee, who were found murdered in their homes in Sligo, and schoolteacher Ashling Murphy, who was stabbed while out jogging in Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Last week her killer, Jozef Puska, 33, a Slovakian, was jailed for life. In his victim impact statement, Ms Murphy’s devastated partner Ryan Casey alluded to some of the tensions facing Irish society as he pointed out her unemployed killer had benefited from social housing and welfare for 10 years.

“I feel like this country is no longer the country that Ashling and I grew up in and has officially lost its innocence when a crime of this magnitude can be perpetrated in broad daylight,” he said.

Earlier this year, a Travelodge in north Dublin housing asylum seekers became the focus of right-wing protests.

In September, crowds of far-right supporters protested outside Dublin’s parliament building.

Wendy Via, president of the Global Project Against Hate & Extremism, said the country was part of a global trend in growing right-wing sentiment.

“In Ireland, its largely anti-immigrant sentiment driving it,” she said, adding: “You have to keep your eye on the fringe.”

“People claim this attacker is a certain race or ethnicity and it was driven by XYZ and it just spreads and it is very inflammatory. They will co-opt another issue to legitimise themselves and unfortunately sometimes you get what you got last night, which was arson, damage and injuries.”

UK Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the scenes showed society needed “a proper debate" about “migration, immigration, what we need in skills and how we treat people and what pressures it brings to our domestic services”.

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