‘Ball in Taoiseach’s court’ after gardai lost control of Dublin – O’Reilly

Justice minister Helen McEntee speaking to the media at Mayor Square in Dublin’s city centre (PA)
Justice minister Helen McEntee speaking to the media at Mayor Square in Dublin’s city centre (PA)

The “ball is in the Taoiseach’s court” to remove Justice Minister Helen McEntee from post if she does not resign after gardai “lost control of Dublin” last week.

Sinn Fein TD Louise O’Reilly argued that the worst rioting seen in the state for decades “had been building” and there had been a “failure to keep people safe” on Thursday night in the Irish capital.

However Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney hit back, accusing Sinn Fein of seeking to make political mileage from the situation.

Garda cars, a bus and a tram were set alight, shops damaged and looted and officers attacked during violent scenes, which involved far-right elements, in Dublin on Thursday evening.

It came shortly after three children and a women were injured in a stabbing attack outside a school in the north city centre.

A five-year-old girl injured in the knife attack outside a school remained in a critical condition in hospital on Saturday while the female care assistant, in her 30s, was in a serious condition.

The other children have since been released.

Dublin city centre incident
The scene in Dublin city centre on Thursday after five people were injured, including three young children, on Parnell Square East (Brian Lawless/PA)

Gardai said a man who sustained serious injuries at the scene is a person of interest in their investigation.

Some 48 arrests had been made in the city since the rioting on Thursday and a high-visibility policing plan is in place throughout the weekend, including the deployment of four public order units.

Friday and Saturday passed without major incident amid a heavy Garda presence in Dublin.

Two water cannon have been loaned to An Garda Siochana by the Police Force of Northern Ireland as an available tactic if further violence flares.

Sinn Fein and the Social Democrats have said they do not have confidence in Ms McEntee or Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

Ms O’Reilly said her party is considering tabling a no confidence motion in Ms McEntee in the Dail.

“I think at this stage we need to focus on what happened on Thursday.

“There was a failure to keep people safe in Dublin city,” she told RTE Radio’s This Week programme.

“It left gardai exposed, it left our emergency services exposed.

“There was a period in which control of the city was lost. That is a very grave and a very, very serious matter.

“The minister was slow to react. She doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate the scale of the issue.

“This didn’t just happen on Thursday. This has been building for months.”

She said retailers, workers and shoppers have told her party they don’t feel safe in Dublin city centre.

“This is an issue that has been building for months and the minister doesn’t recognise the scale of it, and if she doesn’t recognise or understand the scale of the issue, then how could anyone have confidence in her capacity to address it,” she added.

“The minister should resign.

“If she is not going to do that, then the Taoiseach should remove her from her position.

“We’re going to hear from the minister early next week, and we will keep all options under review, but the ball is very firmly in the court of the Taoiseach at the moment.

“It is in it is his job to ensure that that his team are up to the job.”

Mr Coveney said 400 gardai were on the streets of Dublin at very short notice on Thursday when the situation escalated.

“We’re going to get a very detailed response in terms of a Garda report on exactly what happens and lessons to be learned,” he said.

“No one’s saying that there aren’t lessons to be learned here, of course there are, but our focus in government needs to be to support the gardai and its’ leadership, to support the minister and her leadership, to support the migrant community and to give them the reassurance that they need and support businesses as well in terms of many businesses that have been damaged.”

Asked did he feel Dublin is safe, Mr Coveney said: “For the most part yes.

“I walk to Dublin City Centre every week but clearly there are tensions in some parts of Dublin that we need to respond to, and I think the the vicious attack on three young children and a creche worker sparked something that was taken advantage of by a number of cynical people who brought people onto the streets to cause carnage.

“We need to learn lessons send us make sure it doesn’t happen again and I believe that can happen under the current leadership.”

Earlier Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said he fully supports Ms McEntee and Mr Harris in their roles and cautioned that now is not the time for division.

“Sinn Fein never miss an opportunity to express a lack of confidence in anybody or anything,” he told the BBC.

“This is exactly the time in which we need to come together, it’s exactly the time in which we need to show a united force I believe to some forces that are trying to fragment and pull our country apart

“Of course there will be a time to consider what happened and learn lessons from it honestly, but now is not a time for division.”