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Garda Commissioner says 'young drunk' people responsible for violence in Dublin city

Harris rejected criticism that the garda response in Dublin may have been over-reactionary.

Gardaí patrolling in Dublin city yesterday evening.
Gardaí patrolling in Dublin city yesterday evening.
Image: RollingNews.ie

GARDA COMMISSIONER DREW Harris has said an element of young drunk people are responsible for causing violent disturbances in Dublin City over the bank holiday weekend.

He also singled out the selling of take-away alcohol from licensed premises, which he said led to people drinking in public places where attacks on gardaí, criminal damage and general public disorder took place. 

Speaking in Limerick today, Commissioner Harris said: “What we had last weekend was violence due to large amounts of young people, who had drink taken, some of them were very drunk, but then there was an element within that group who were intent on trouble, and causing damage and causing violence”.

“There were attacks on members of An Garda Síochána, there were assaults within groups, fighting within the crowds, and there was also criminal damage, and we have a responsibility to respond to that.”

Last weekend’s incidents were “a spontaneous gathering of those young people, and we didn’t have a control of it, and we didn’t have a means of licensing it”, Harris said.

In effect we had to deal with individuals that turned up, and the difference from the weekend before seems to be, that there was a group intent on causing harm through violence or criminal damage through the burning of bins.

“I think over the last number of weeks we’ve had a particular imbalance in the (drinks) licence industry, in that, we’ve had either carry-out drinks or carry-out pints, and licensed premises do bring an element or order and they should conduct — and the great majority well conduct their businesses, and that brings some order — and what we’ve had is not events, but just people congregating, there’s a lot of drink being taken and inevitably that has ended up then in public order difficulties that we’ve had to deal with,” he added.

Harris rejected criticism that the garda response in Dublin may have been over-reactionary.

He said gardaí were simply doing their job by responding to violent events: “I would say that our use of force and our policing tactics were appropriate to the situation that we faced, and I would reiterate that, in acting in how we did, I believe we prevented the situation from deteriorating further.”

We could already see there was damage being caused and we could see there were groups fighting amongst themselves within that crowd, and there were sustained attacks on members of An Garda Síochána through bottles being thrown.

“So, that is a situation that we can’t allow just to escalate and we can’t allow for that to continue – we have to act to preserve the peace, and to prevent crime, and that’s done in order to protect people and our own members on duty.”

Harris said people were entitled to make a complaint to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) if they wanted, adding, “every use of force is reported upon and is assessed and if members of the public wish to make complaints they can to the independent GSOC who will investigate those, and indeed we will be held to account by both the Policing Authority, and the minister”

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Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys, said last weekend’s trouble in Dublin was caused by “only a small number of people” and “the majority of people who have been out and about across the length and breadth of the country have behaved in a very responsible way”.

Humphreys said she was “delighted of course that the pubs and restaurants will be open to outdoor dining, and people will have more space and more seating arrangements available to them”.

She praised the cooperation between businesses, communities, and gardaí, in managing the phased summer reopening.

The minister rejected any notion that gardaí did not have a plan in place to deal with large crowds: “I don’t agree with that, an expansive plan was put in place and it worked effectively right across the country – there were a number of instances in (Dublin) city that have been highlighted and were dealt with appropriately”.

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David Raleigh

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