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Justice Minister Helen McEntee Leah Farrell/
Justice Committee

McEntee to tell Committee Dublin riots were exploitation of appalling incident to 'simply wreak havoc'

On Tuesday, the Justice Minister survived a confidence motion in the Dáil.

JUSTICE MINISTER Helen McEntee will tell an Oireachtas Committee today that the events of the Dublin riots were the “exploitation of an appalling incident to simply wreak havoc”. 

On the afternoon of 23 November, five people, including three young children, were hospitalised after a stabbing in Parnell Square.

That evening saw riots on the streets of Dublin city centre in which shops were damaged, garda cars were destroyed or damaged and a Luas and buses were set alight. 

Dozens of people were arrested following the unrest. 

Pressure has been mounting on McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris in the wake of the riots. On Tuesday, the Justice Minister survived a confidence motion in the Dáil. 

McEntee is due to appear before the Joint Committee on Justice at 9.30am to discuss policing matters.

She will tell the committee that the safety of Irish people has “always been foremost” in her thoughts and actions during her time in office. 

Response to Dublin riots 

McEntee will tell the Committee that there is “no excuse for the disgraceful scenes of violence we saw a fortnight ago”. 

She will say that “we must be very clear about what followed the attack”. 

“What we saw was the exploitation of an appalling incident to simply wreak havoc,” she will tell the Committee. 

The Committee will hear from McEntee that those involved “disturbed the scene of the previous shocking crime” and diverted Garda resources away from investigating and dealing with that incident. 

The Minister will tell the Committee that more than 400 members of An Garda Síochána were deployed on patrol in Dublin city centre, including frontline uniformed gardaí, non-uniformed gardaí and more than 250 public order gardaí. 

The Committee will hear that McEntee had a “positive and constructive” meeting with retailers in Dublin city last week. 

She will outline that she is “aware of the difficulties” retailers face in dealing with repeat offenders who steal and the concerns of their staff. 

The Journal reported on 28 November, five days after the unrest, that some shops and food outlets in the city centre area were the riots and looting occured were still closing early at the end of each day as multiple immigrant workers said they “do not feel safe anymore”. 

Facial recognition technology

McEntee will also outline details of recent legislation that has provided for increased sentences for a number of offences, along with details of new laws that have been enacted.

The Justice Minister will tell the Committee that she has brought through legislation that will put An Garda Síochána “on a clear path” to start rolling out bodycams on frontline gardaí next year. 

She will outline that gardaí in Dublin city centre will have acess to bodycams from next spring. 

“The shocking scenes we witnessed in Dublin show how crucial bodycams are to protecting Gardaí and helping to bring criminals to justice,” she will say. 

McEntee will tell the Committee of her plans to extend legislation for facial recognition technology (FRT).

The draft facial recognition technology law will be ready to be approved by Government within weeks.

It has been confirmed to The Journal that the FRT legislation will go through pre-legislative scrutiny before being finalised. This means it could be next year at the earliest before it comes into effect.

There was disagreement in recent months between Fine Gael and the Green Party over plans to legislate for FRT, with a decision made to proceed separately with the roll out of bodycams for gardaí and to introduce FRT through standalone legislation.

McEntee will tell the Committee that “as a direct result of the recent disorder” the Garda Síochána (Digital Management and Facial Recognition Technology) Bill will allow gardaí to use FRT in “very limited circumstances to assist in identifying offenders in respect of serious violent offences”. 

She will say that it is “a waste of resources to have gardaí manually reviewing thousands of hours of CCTV footage” after an incident such as was seen recently. 

The Minister will tell the Committee that the use of FRT will “only be permitted retrospectively” and that live processing of data will be forbidden in law. The Committee will be told that the system will be overseen by a High Court judge.

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