Justice minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris Alamy
Under Pressure

Pressure mounts as Harris and McEntee called before justice committee over city centre violence

Some opposition TDs say they have no confidence in the Garda Commissioner or the Justice Minister after Thursday’s events.

GARDA COMMISSIONER DREW Harris and Justice Minister Helen McEntee are to appear before the Oireachtas Justice Committee to address the violence and disruption on Dublin’s streets in recent days.

Gardaí have arrested 48 people in the city since Thursday and more than 30 have been called before the courts on theft and public order related charges after rioting and looting caused chaos.

Fianna Fáil TD and committee chair James Lawless invited the pair to appear “at the earliest opportunity”, describing this week’s events as “a perfect storm of far-right hate groups organising online but also of rogue gangs of local youths”.

“While the issues here are complex, at least one of the solutions has to be resourcing the gardaí including recruitment and retention issues, and proactively reclaiming the streets for ordinary, law aiding people,” he said.

“We need to get tough on city centre policing … I welcome the increased presence in the capital on Friday night but that must become the norm, not the exception.”

Both the Commissioner and the Justice Minister have been under fire in recent days, not only for the events of 23 November, but other issues within An Garda Síochána that have been mounting for years.

Some opposition parties have called for both Harris and McEntee to resign, arguing that their positions have become untenable, people feel unsafe in the city.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said: “This is not a call that was made in isolation . “In the first instance, I believe we need a change in culture.

“We need to separate the higher echelons of An Garda Síochána from the heroic efforts we’ve seen from individual guards on the street.”

In September, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) members voted overwhelmingly to express no confidence in the commissioner, after Harris pushed ahead with a controversial roster change.

Other issues cited by the union include the retention of staff, discipline processes and the feeling that gardaí are unable to engage in robust policing in response to anti-social behaviour.

Gannon believes rank-and-file gardaí have been proven right.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said that there has been “a good deal of political play acting” in recent days from both opposition and government parties, but that the Minister and the Commissioner “have serious questions to answer”.

“There’s clearly been a failure when we see a breakdown of law and order in the streets of Dublin for a lengthy period of time on Thursday evening, resulting in such fear and such mayhem.”

“People want to see political leadership. They want to see a united sense of purpose to ensure our streets are safe.”

McEntee says she is “determined to maintain momentum” in garda recruitment, amid a severe staff shortage.

Following a briefing today with the Commissioner, McEntee says additional overtime has been provided to gardaí in the capital, and an additional €4.4 million has been earmarked for 95 extra garda cars and vans by the end of the year.

“I want to again be clear that the thuggery we saw on Thursday will not be tolerated and, as Minister for Justice, An Garda Síochána, including Commissioner Harris, have my full support to maintain order,” said McEntee.

“Those responsible will be brought to justice.”

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