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Tánaiste says McEntee will have full backing of all Fianna Fáil TDs if no confidence vote called

Mary Lou McDonald criticised Government TDs for not being present on the scene of last week’s stabbing incident.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 28th 2023, 7:43 PM

TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN has said he fully supports the Justice Minister Helen McEntee and that he is confident she will have the full backing of Fianna Fáil TDs if it comes to a vote of no confidence in her.

His comments come after Fianna Fáil senators Timmy Dooley and Erin McGreehan called for the Garda Commissioner to resign in the wake of last week’s riots in Dublin and following a number of Fianna Fáil TDs privately expressing to the media, privately over the weekend, that the minister’s position is untenable.

Speaking at Farmleigh House this afternoon, the Tánaiste said: “I have absolute confidence in the Minister for Justice”.

He added that it is his “longstanding position not to call for the resignation of any Garda Commissioner. 

Martin said a key takeaway for him following the riots last Thursday was the “rapid mobilisation” of so many people on social media. 

He said this culminated in “rioting, looting and also a significant articulation of hate towards foreigners essentially – if you read some of the messaging on social media, and the looting and so on, so we have to respond to that,” he said.

His comments come as the Dáil debated the the riots that took place in Dublin last week. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the House that he has full confidence in his justice minister and the Garda Commissioner. 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald criticised Government TDs for not being present on the scene of last week’s stabbing incident in Dublin.

Four people were injured in a stabbing incident in Parnell Square last Thursday, including three children. 

A five-year-old girl injured in the incident remains in a critical condition in hospital.

The Dáil is hearing statements on policing, protests and public order as a result of the rioting that erupted in Dublin last week following this incident. 

“I was actually on the scene,” Mary Lou McDonald said in her statement.

“I don’t recall seeing any of the members opposite out on the ground to fully appreciate the devastation that was felt at the unfolding events.” 

She also criticised Justice Minister Helen McEntee for stating that no one “could have imagined” what would unfold. 

“The clear realisation very early on was that this was very ugly, that there was a very malicious cabal of people who had gathered,” said McDonald.

“They were working their phones, and they were clearly mobilising.

“I spoke to countless people and they all said one thing in common – they all saw it coming.

“We have now the bizarre situation where it seems the only people who didn’t see this coming are the people who are actually in charge, the people in leadership positions.”

Varadkar opened the session by saying that the “full weight of the state will be available in how we respond”.

Varadkar added that now was the time to support the Justice Minister and the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. 

Justice Minister Helen McEntee then said that “those thugs and criminals” who rioted last week “will be brought to justice” and that government “will all do everything we can to ensure that what we witnessed on Thursday will never happen again”.

She added: “To those who say that gardaí could have foreseen this, that they should have seen it coming, I say that not one person in this Chamber woke up on Thursday morning and could even imagine what we would be witnessing later on that afternoon. Not one of us.”

McEntee also said “social media companies need to do more” to tackle hate.

The minister said that Dublin is a “wonderful capital city” and knows that the riot that took place on Thursday has deeply affected people. 

Meanwhile, Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the far-right is “buoyant” following the violent riots in Dublin city centre and addressing McEntee in the Dail, he said: “I think you need to wake up and realise that this threat is not going away.

“You don’t get Dublin, the garda force is falling apart, the far right are buoyant, and you need to take responsibility for that.

“And you’re saying in your speech that it won’t happen again? I mean, are you out of your mind?

“Do you know how buoyant they are? Do you know what happened in East Wall last night to Deputy McDonald,” said Ó Ríordáin, referencing an incident last night when McDonald was accosted by demonstrators who shouted at her and surrounded her car.

One man was arrested at the scene. 

‘Lost Control’

Earlier this afternoon during Leaders’ Questions, McDonald said Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris had “lost control” of Dublin city centre last Thursday.

Her comments come as the McEntee and the Garda Commissioner come under pressure over the handling of last week’s events.

On her way into Cabinet today, McEntee told reporters that she is “absolutely focused” on her job. “That’s my priority,” McEntee said. 

“The reality is that Dublin city centre hasn’t been safe for some time,” said the Sinn Féin leader.

“What happened in the aftermath of the horrific knife attack was deplorable, shameful and criminal,” she said, adding that “public safety collapsed”.

“The idea that this violence couldn’t be predicted is a nonsense. This situation has been building for a months,” said McDonald, telling the Taoiseach that by 2.30pm on Thursday afternoon “it was obvious that there was a threat to public safety”.

McDonald said a strong policing response and leadership was needed, “but instead brave gardaí were left high and dry,” she said. 

The Taoiseach accused McDonald of “playing politics” by “looking for heads” rather than focusing on policy which would make people feeling safe in Dublin. 

McEntee today announced a review aiming to provide clarity on the use of force by gardaí responding to public order incidents similar to last Thursday’s riot in Dublin.

McEntee said there would be a “strong, visible Garda presence” on the ground during the Christmas period, including public order units.

However, McDonald told the Taoiseach today that McEntee “refuses to accept that control of Dublin city centre was lost”.

“It seems the minister has moved from denial to full blown delusion and she is clearly not the person to provide the leadership needed to restore public confidence in policing.”

‘Position is untenable’

“Her position is now untenable, Taoiseach, you must do what is necessary now, having failed the people so badly, and remove Helen McEntee as Minister for Justice,” said McDonald. 

The threat of a no confidence motion hangs over McEntee with Sinn Féin stating that it will consider tabling one next week if the minister does not resign.

The Social Democrats and the Labour Party has said it will be voting no confidence in Minister for Justice Helen McEntee if Sinn Féin table a vote next week.

McEntee said today that she had been speaking to Garda members who responded to the incidents on Thursday, and said she wanted to make sure that they have “everything available to them” to respond in the future.

The minister announced today that she has asked the Policing Authority to look at equipment and resources gardaí might need and to “provide clarity” on the use of force.

“I want them to have the confidence to respond in the way that they deem appropriate,” she said.

“There were serious thugs and criminals who went out to not just cause disruption, but to harm people on Thursday night, and Gardai need to be able to respond with the appropriate force.

“It is important that when responding to these serious types of incidents that Gardai can use the force that they deem appropriate. It’s so important that we trust our members to respond in the way that they deem appropriate.

“I think their response on Thursday was excellent. I think the way in which they managed the situation was excellent,” she added.

She told reporters today that she didn’t want gardaí to be “looking over their shoulder unsure as to what type of level of force that they can use in responding to these type of difficult scenarios”. 

Stop linking crime and migration, says Varadkar

Labour’s Ivana Bacik said “everyone in the House is aware of the hate and disinformation that has been spread, particularly about immigration”.

Varadkar said he wanted to concur as regards some of the use of the language that some people use in Leinster House.

“It’s a very difficult topic to talk about as politicians and we do have to talk about it by the way. It will be a mistake not to, but some of what’s been said has stirred up prejudices. And there are people who are on the far-right in politics, who want to start further discord and encourage further violence,” he said. 

Varadkar also urged people stop linking migration and crime, stating that it is “not right”. 

The Journal / YouTube

“I really would ask people to try and avoid connecting crime with migration. It’s not right. Yes, of course, people who are migrants might commit crimes, just as people who aren’t might commit crimes. In a country of 5.3 million people, if you have hundreds of thousands of migrants, there are going to be a few of them who commit terrible crimes.

“Just as there are people born and bred in Ireland who commit terrible crimes every day, including murders. When I see what happened in Parnell Square, what I see is a suspect was a migrant although a citizen and somebody here for over 20 years.

“I see a five-year- old child in hospital, both her parents coming from migrant background and her, born in Ireland. And of the five or six people who intervened to stop the attack, four those six are migrants to this country.

It’s totally wrong to try and make out that there’s a connection between crime and migration based on what happened on Parnell Street the other day, the alleged assailant, the victims and those who stopped the attack – most of them were from migrant backgrounds.

He said all politicians have a duty to understand the basics around migration policy. 

Varadkar went on to explain the different aspects of Ireland’s migration policy:  

The Journal / YouTube

With reporting by Press Association