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dail recall

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald says she has no confidence in Garda Commissioner Drew Harris

There have been calls for politicians to return to the Dáil a day early.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 24th 2023, 3:15 PM

SINN FÉIN AND Opposition leader Mary Lou McDonald has said she has no confidence in the Minister for Justice or the Garda Commissioner following last night’s riots in Dublin.

In a statement released this afternoon, McDonald said she supported the gardaí but not the Minister or Garda Commissioner.

Her statement comes following similar expressions of no confidence from the Social Democrats.

“The people of this city have the right to be safe on their streets, in their homes and in their communities,” McDonald said.

“The gardaí have my full support but given the catastrophic operational failures last night, I have no confidence in the Justice Minister, and no confidence in the Garda Commissioner.”

The Sinn Féin leader began her statement by offering her support to the victims of the attacks and their families as well as the staff and pupils of Gaelscoil Choláiste Mhuire.

She then moved on to condemn the rioters last night, before going on the criticise the Garda response.

“The cold truth and the reality that we must confront today is that the gardaí lost control of the centre of our capital city. A mob was allowed to shut down the centre of the city. Public transport locked down. People stranded in the city,” she said.

“Members of the public, families and workers terrified in what was a threatening and volatile atmosphere. This was an unacceptable, unprecedented collapse in policing.”

She said that claims that this level of violence was unforeseen were “nonsense”.

“These hate filled mobs have threatened and brought violence to our streets before. This shouldn’t have happened and – let me be very clear – it can never happen again.”

McDonald said she had spoken to Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Commissioner Drew Harris in the aftermath of what had occurred, calling it an “unacceptable failure”.

“However, we all know this problem didn’t start last night. This has been building for months,” she said.

“Sinn Féin has been highlighting the crisis in policing in Dublin city for a long time because we do not have enough gardaí.

Let me say it plainly – people do not feel safe in Dublin City Centre.

She said she had “no confidence in how Dublin is being policed”.

‘Position untenable’ 

Earlier, Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon, said the positions of both the minister and the Commissioner were untenable.

Speaking to reporters at Leinster House this afternoon, Gannon was asked if be believed Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Justice Minister Helen McEntee should resign. 

“Last night’s catastrophic policing failure must be a watershed moment in how the State responds to future security threats. I have lost all confidence in Drew Harris’ ability to do that,” he said. 

McEntee must now explain why, given the violent mayhem in Dublin last night, she should remain in her role.

“She must come into the Dáil at the earliest opportunity and do that,” said Gannon.

“I believe currently their position is untenable,” he said, stating that he had no confidence in the Garda Commissioner following last night’s unprecedented level of violence.

“The scenes of near anarchy in our capital city last night have no place in any civilised democracy.

“Last night’s shocking events are the result of an absence of leadership – from both Garda management and Justice Minister Helen McEntee; a lack of planning or preparedness; inadequate resources; and insufficient training. There must be accountability for these failures.

“From 2pm yesterday, far-right agitators were posting in social media channels – on Telegram and elsewhere – that large protests were planned near O’Connell Street. Some Government offices were evacuated as early as 4pm yesterday, so it is clear there was an awareness of a heightened threat level,” he added. 

Gannon said it “beggars belief” that the main thoroughfare of the capital city was essentially surrendered to “far-right thugs and marauding gangs for hours last night”.

“This lack of preparedness endangered rank-and-file gardaí, who were at times completely outnumbered, surrounded and viciously attacked by these thugs. The central core of the city was effectively lawless and prominent businesses were looted while buses, Luas carriages and garda vehicles were set ablaze,” he added.

The Dublin Central TD said that there have been warnings about the rise of the far-right violence and anti-social behaviour in the inner city for at least 18 months.

“Throughout that time, the Garda Commissioner has adopted a policy of appeasement of the far-right, which has not worked and is now utterly discredited. This level of wanton thuggery and criminality needs a far stronger policing response – not the kid glove approach adopted on this Commissioner’s watch,” said Gannon.

He hit out at McEntee’s €10 million in funding for garda overtime which was pledged after recent criticisms about the lack of safety in the city centre, calling it a “sticking plaster solution that will not fix the systemic issues we are facing”.

The comments came as the Labour Party has called for the Dáil to be recalled and to sit on Monday following yesterday’s riots in Dublin city centre. 

Expressions of confidence

Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed confidence in both the Garda Commissioner and the Justice Minister. 

Varadkar said a review as to what happened yesterday and the events leading up to it will take place, adding that over the next couple of days and weeks “we need to be 100% behind the gardaí”.

“There should be no criticism of the gardaí, only total support for the gardaí and commissioner.”

Dáil recall

The Labour Party has today written to the Business Committee supporting calls for the Dáil to be recalled on Monday.

Labour justice spokesperson Aodhan O Riordain said:

“We are deeply concerned about yesterday’s events, the attacking of innocent children and workers, and the breakdown of law and order on our streets.

“A special sitting of the Oireachtas is appropriate to gain an understanding of what happened, what went wrong and how we can learn from this as a nation.”

When asked if he would support such a call, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would be happy to give the suggestion consideration if people felt it would make a difference. 

He told reporters at Dublin Castle today that the damage caused to businesses and public infrastructure is likely to cost “tens of millions of Euro”, adding that the details of what supports will be made available to businesses. 

Varadkar also confirmed meeting of “key ministers” will be held at Government Buildings this afternoon, though it is not a formal Cabinet meeting, as other non-ministers and security figures will also be in attendance. 

With reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald