Ireland’s prime minister has pledged to clamp down after 34 people were arrested following a rampage through Dublin overnight by a far-right mob.
Labelling the violence a “shame on Ireland”, Leo Varadkar said on Friday that his government would use the “full resources of the law” to punish the perpetrators and tighten hate and incitement legislation. Police have blamed the trouble on “a lunatic faction driven by far-right ideology”.
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The clashes broke out in central Dublin, with vehicles torched and riot police attacked, after a five-year-old girl was seriously injured in a knife attack at a school on Thursday. A woman and two other young children were hospitalised in the same attack.
Authorities have not commented on the nationality of a man, also in hospital, who was detained in connection with the stabbings.
However, social media posts regarding the suspect’s ethnic background soon emerged, and a small group of anti-immigrant protesters arrived at the scene and clashed with police.
Later, at least 100 people took to the streets in the centre of the Irish capital, some armed with metal bars and covering their faces.
Police said more than 400 officers, including many in riot gear, were deployed to contain the unrest, which they said was “caused by a small group of thugs”.
A police cordon was also set up around the Irish parliament building, Leinster House, and officers from the Mounted Support Unit were in nearby Grafton Street.
Several police vehicles and a tram were damaged during the disorder, while a bus and car were set on fire on the city’s O’Connell Bridge.
Shop windows were smashed and stores looted as opportunists were reported to have joined the fray.
All public transport in the city – trams and buses – was suspended and many firms have urged their staff to work from home on Friday.
‘Filled with hate’
Police said on Friday that 34 people had been arrested, and added that they expect to make many further arrests soon.
They have blamed far-right agitators for starting the violence.
“We have a complete lunatic hooligan faction driven by far-right ideology, and also then this disruptive tendency engaged in serious violence,” said Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, Ireland’s top police officer. “What we saw last night was an extraordinary outbreak of violence. These are scenes that we have not seen in decades.”
He added that police have not ruled out a potential “terrorist” link.
“All lines of inquiry are open to determine the motive for this attack,” he said.
Varadkar said on Friday that the riot was motivated by “hate”.
“Those involved brought shame on Dublin, brought shame on Ireland and brought shame on their families and themselves,” the prime minister told reporters.
“They did not do what they did because they wanted to protect Irish people. They did not do it out of any sense of patriotism, however warped,” he continued. “They did so because they’re filled with hate. They love violence. They love chaos and they love causing pain to others.
“As a country, we need to reclaim Ireland. We need to take it away from the cowards who hide behind masks and tried to terrify us with their violence,” he continued.
Varadkar went on to pledge that the government would use the “full resources of the law, the full machinery of the state to punish those involved in yesterday’s grotesque events”.
He also outlined plans to pass new laws in the coming weeks to enable police “to make better use” of CCTV evidence they collected during the unrest.
Ireland would “modernise” its laws regarding hate and incitement, he added.
Ireland’s parliament hosts no far-right parties or politicians, but anti-immigrant protests have grown in the last year. The government is reviewing security around parliament after a recent protest trapped MPs inside.