Justice minister seeks meeting with social media company after Dublin riots

Justice Minister Helen McEntee speaking during a visit to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)
Justice Minister Helen McEntee speaking during a visit to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA) Justice Minister Helen McEntee speaking during a visit to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has said she is looking to meet with social media company X, formerly known as Twitter, in relation to its response to riots in Dublin.

The minister has said that Gardai had “actively engaged” with the social media companies on the day of the riots in Dublin, which saw vehicles set alight and shops looted.

Tens of millions of damage to public infrastructure has been done in disorder involving 500 people, according to garda estimates.

Ms McEntee told the Dail this week that while companies Meta and TikTok had engaged with gardai and took down posts, social media site X “did not engage or fulfil their own community standards”.

She said that she would seek a meeting with X after she said some of the posts “fuelled some of what happened”.

“There has been engagement between An Garda Siochana and the social media companies not just on Thursday, but since then,” she said, speaking at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.

“But I will be seeking to meet with X myself, because I think the company have a responsibility to be responsible.

“They did not take down content on Thursday, it added to and I think fuelled some of what happened, so I would like to engage with them on what they plan to do moving forward.”

She said that Ireland’s new broadcast and online media regulator, Coimisiun na Mean, would oversee the implementation of guidelines once it is fully set up.

She added: “So what we want to ensure is that the companies work to their own standards and they take care of the people who use their platforms, so it’s not about shutting them down, or trying to prevent platforms from operating.

“It’s about making sure that they live up to their own standards, and that they keep people safe, and that’s why I would like to engage with them.

“And that’s why I would hope that they would respond positively and obviously not just with myself but An Garda Siochana as well.”

The government is under pressure over its strategy to staff gardai and enforce the law after disorder in Dublin city last Thursday.

The riots were preceded by a knife attack in which three children and a woman were injured outside a school on Parnell Square East in Dublin’s inner city.

A five-year-old girl and her carer remain in critical conditions in hospital.

Hours after the attack, angry crowds gathered at the edge of the Garda cordon.

Scenes escalated after some attempted to push through the cordon; bins, Garda cars and other vehicles were set alight and shops looted later that evening.

The event has placed further pressure on the justice minister, who came under questioning during the summer after high-profile attacks in Dublin city.

“I have the full support of my party, I have the full support of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and I have the support of my Cabinet colleagues,” she said on Thursday.

The Fine Gael minister also refused to apologise for comments she made in the Dail in which she called those involved in the riots “scumbags”.

“I’ve said what I’ve said.

“I think those who are responsible for the atrocious scenes that we saw last Thursday, they should be held accountable.

“I have strong feelings on what happened.

“I think the people responsible for the violence and the absolute thuggery on Thursday night, they need to be brought to justice.

“It’s not normally language that I use, but I think what we saw on Thursday night was not something that we normally see.”

“I am absolutely of the view that we need to get to the root causes but let’s not create excuses for the people who came out and looted and rioted.”

Asked about an incorrect media report about the chief suspect in the knife attack, Ms McEntee said that “yes, particular information was taken down, and I think it was appropriate that it was”.

“I think each and every one of us should take responsibility for any content that we share and that we pass on,” she said.

Helen McEntee visit to National Rehabilitation Hospital
Helen McEntee visit to National Rehabilitation Hospital Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Minister of State at the Department of Transport Jack Chambers (Brian Lawless/PA)

“There has been a lot of misinformation spread since last Thursday on a lot of different matters, that can be hugely disruptive to investigations, but also can be hugely upsetting to many people so I would ask people to think before they send on information, particularly where information is shared that might be part of an investigation.

“So you’d appreciate there is an ongoing investigation into the awful stabbings last week.

“So I don’t want to comment much further.”

Minister of State Jack Chambers, who also attended the event, said that he was not aware of a review into whether an alternative to X was being sought by State agencies as a way of communicating with the public and media.

“There’s a very worrying rise of disinformation on that particular network and the fact that they didn’t respond (on Thursday) is of concern,” he said.

“I’m not aware of any specific review that’s ongoing.

“It’s obviously important for colleagues within government and people in the wider political system and indeed, mainstream media to make sure that objective factual information is put out there as well because a lot of people are on these networks.

“We’ll be calling on them to adhere to their own guidance and obviously there are structures of engagement around that.”