Law students from the European Union are reporting for JURIST on law-related events in and affecting the European Union and its member states. Ciara Dinneny is JURIST’s European Bureau Chief and a trainee solicitor with the Law Society of Ireland. She files this dispatch from Dublin.
Dublin saw an extraordinary outbreak of violence last Thursday following a knife attack outside a school in the city center which led to riots across the Irish capital.
The knife attack occurred outside Gaelscoil Colaiste Mhuire at approximately 13:30pm GMT. Five people, including three children, were injured as a result of the incident. Two of the children have since been discharged from the hospital, while one girl, aged five, remains in a critical condition. A care assistant was also hospitalized as result of the incident and is said to be in a serious but stable condition. A male in his 50s has been named as a person of interest for the investigation but remains in hospital at this time.
Following the stabbing incident, Gardaí [Ireland’s police force] cordoned off the area for investigative purposes. Information was leaked regarding the nationality of the person of interest which led to an anti-immigrant protest at the scene. The situation escalated when far-right agitators gathered and began to confront the Gardaí. Violence spread across the city and saw damage caused to three buses, one Luas tram, and around eleven Gardaí cars, a number of which were set ablaze. There was also widespread looting across the city, with a number of shop windows smashed and robbed. The violence led to significant damage across the city and a number of Gardaí were injured.
Many officials spoke up about the shame the riots brought to Ireland and how such violence cannot be justified under the guise of an anti-immigrant protest. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called the incident “an attack on our society and the rule of law” and declared in a statement that these “criminals did not do what they did because they love Ireland […] they did so because they are filled with hate , they love violence, they love chaos, and causing pain to others.” He further went on to say we need to reclaim Ireland from “the criminals who seek any excuse to unleash horror on our streets.” Minister for Justice of Ireland Helen McEntee referred to the riots as “nothing but thuggery” and that “[t]his was a group of individuals who used this horrendous event as an opportunity to wreak havoc in our city.” The Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice have both faced criticism on the delayed response to the riots and the lack of resources to deal with the wide scale violence.
Varadkar has vowed to crack down on racist attacks and take all measures necessary to do so. Measures to be taken include the use of facial recognition and new legislation to prosecute online promoters of hate speech. The Irish Government had planned to publish the draft Garda Síochána (Digital Management and Facial Recognition Technology) Bill 2023 at the end of this year for legislative scrutiny. Following the riots, the legislation will include the use of such technology to prosecute individuals for the riots and violent disorder. Prior, it was envisaged that such technology would only be used to investigate serious crimes which are subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment including homicide, rape and aggravated sexual assault, child sexual abuse and child abduction. The Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022, is currently before the government for legislative scrutiny and is expected to be passed in the next 12 months. The legislation will prohibit incitement of violence or hatred against a person or a group of persons on account of certain characteristics.
Over 30 individuals have already appeared before the courts in relation to the riots for charges of theft, public order and possession of a weapon. Further arrests are expected over the coming weeks.
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