Fine Gael Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris Eamonn Farrell
Dublin City

'Lines were crossed': Sinn Féin maintains pressure on McEntee, as Green TD indicates no confidence

It comes as over three hours have been set aside in the Dáil tomorrow to discuss the events of last Thursday.

PRESSURE REMAINS HIGH on both the Justice Minister and Garda Commissioner following the events of last Thursday, with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald saying the “days of excuses” are over. 

McDonald said Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris need to be held to account over the violence and disruption in Dublin on 23 November.

Her comments comes as over three hours have been set aside in the Dáil tomorrow to discuss the events of last Thursday.

When asked by The Journal today if Sinn Féin will table a motion of no confidence in the Minister, McDonald said her view is that the Minister should choose to resign herself.

“If she’s not minded to do that the Taoiseach as the head of Government needs to bring accountability to the situation. But of course, we will reserve all options up to and including a confidence motion, but we shouldn’t have to do that,” McDonald said.

McDonald, who was on the scene shortly after the knife attack on three children and one adult on Thursday afternoon, said that even at that stage of the afternoon it was “obvious” that there was a small group gathering in response to the attack.

“It was very, very menacing and it was very clear that people were working phones.

“Talking to people over the weekend, who weren’t on the scene, they were able to tell me: ‘Look, we could see it on social media platforms. This was happening.’ That’s a question that needs to be answered by the authorities,” she said.

McDonald added that the Justice Minister and the Garda Commissioner can’t carry on as business as usual.

“A tipping point was reached. Lines were crossed on Thursday night and now there needs to be accountability for that and I’m hearing that across the community as well,” she said.

Meanwhile, Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan has indicated she will not back the Justice Minister if there is a motion of no confidence. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1, Hourigan – who is currently outside the party whip – said “I don’t see how I can”.

Social Protection Minister and Fine Gael TD Heather Humphries said earlier today that she does have confidence in McEntee and in the Garda Commissioner.

Mary Lou McDonald said today: “There is an absolute unified demand across the capital city that we are safe on our streets and in our communities.”

“The days of excuses or dodging the realities on the ground by the minister, by the government or by the Garda Commissioner are over.

“People have been patient with them,” she added.

McDonald said resources, planning and leadership have been asked for “but those in charge have failed”.

“And now they have to be held to account and we move to resourcing the gardaí, resourcing our communities and ensuring that children can go to school safely and that people can go about their lives in the capital city without fear of the violence that we saw,” she said.

On Friday, the Sinn Féin leader said she has no confidence in the Minister for Justice or the Garda Commissioner following the riots in Dublin the night before.

No confidence

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

A similar expression of no confidence was also made by the Social Democrats.

Speaking to reporters today, however, Labour TD Aodháin Ó Ríordáin said his party’s position is that rather than backing calls for resignations, the focus needs to be “on the far-right, actors who are causing this poison in our society”.

He said calls for resignations are “the immediate political response that people expect, I suppose when it comes to point scoring politically, but we care deeply about our city.”

“We care deeply about school communities who are traumatised. We care deeply about members of our own communities who are saying we don’t feel safe walking the streets of Dublin and if you turn this conversation into ‘this person needs to resign or the other person needs to resign’, well then we’re not talking about those issues property.”

He said the Government’s response so far is not what people need to hear and argued that instead people need to hear from the minister that she hears and understands the issues in the gardaí – including around resourcing, pay and conditions.

He added: “I mean, it is pretty obvious that even if Drew Harris did resign in the morning, you probably wouldn’t be able to get somebody to replace him.

“So this is how deep the issues within an Garda Síochána are. And for Government to come out and start talking about water cannons, dog units, horse units, and facial recognition technology – none of which are going to prevent, or would have prevented what happened on Thursday night”.

Ó Ríordáin also criticised members of the Oireachtas for fuelling and whipping up anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“They step into this vacuum because Government are not providing leadership in terms of the reality of immigration,” he said. 

Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan also criticised the Policing Authority in the aftermath of the events on 23 November and said it needs to examine the lack of intelligence leading up to the riot. 

“The Policing Authority has a role in this and they need to come out now and they need to put their stamp on it and say they are having an investigation into the conduct of An Garda Síochána afterwards, but also the lead up to it and the intelligence. It’s a real failure of intelligence,” she said. 

Moynihan said the idea that this took the gardaí and the Minister for Justice by surprise is “bananas”. 

Moynihan said the minister “fundamentally does not understand policing in the city.

“We had those photo ops where we saw ministers walking around, but they do not understand what is happening in the city,” she said.

With reporting from Jane Moore.

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