Failed by our own leaders: Fury as Irish police say there was a ‘clear lack of leadership’ in response to Dublin riot – but top commissioner insists mayhem was ‘unprecedented’

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There was a ‘clear lack of leadership’ as Thursday’s violent protests engulfed Dublin city-centre, with gardaí on the frontline revealing they received no information of an organised attack on the capital.

In response to criticisms of the policing collapse which resulted in a mob effectively taking control of the city-centre for hours, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris this week insisted ‘we could not have anticipated’ these events.

But, this view was contradicted by a senior garda based in the city, who said: ‘The dogs on the street knew what was going to happen, bar our leadership, seemingly.’

Detective Garda Niall Hodgins, a Garda Representative Association (GRA) central executive member for Dublin North Central, said there were clear indications on social media that far-right agitators were planning to cause mayhem, but these were not relayed to officers on the ground.

He told the Irish Mail on Sunday: ‘These thugs are nothing short of criminals; they made arrangements to meet up, and if social media was being monitored it wasn’t relayed down to the foot soldiers, which is another signal of a clear lack of leadership.

Gardaí on the frontline revealing they received no information of an organised attack on the capital. Pictured: Gardaí facing rioters on Thursday

Gardaí on the frontline revealing they received no information of an organised attack on the capital. Pictured: Gardaí facing rioters on Thursday

In response to criticisms of the policing collapse which resulted in a mob effectively taking control of the city-centre for hours, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris this week insisted 'we could not have anticipated' these events (File Photo)

In response to criticisms of the policing collapse which resulted in a mob effectively taking control of the city-centre for hours, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris this week insisted ‘we could not have anticipated’ these events (File Photo)

‘SDU [Special Detective Unit] would receive specific intelligence – and anything that would come from our crime and security sections, intelligence or CHIS [Covert Human Intelligence Sources] is filtered down to a senior officer. But certainly nothing with regards to an organised attack filtered down to the members on the frontline.’ 

During several hours of violence on Thursday evening which made headline news across Europe, 13 shops were looted or damaged, along with three buses and one Luas tram. One garda received serious injuries and several others were less seriously injured.

Thirteen Garda vehicles were burned out or damaged. Gardaí arrested 34 people in total, 32 of whom appeared before the Criminal Courts of Justice on Friday.

Asked if An Garda Síochána had failed, Commissioner Harris said members responded ‘in an extraordinary fashion’, with public order units dispatched to Dublin from across the country.

He insisted gardaí could not have anticipated the response to the brutal knife attack on young schoolchildren, which sparked the chaotic scenes across the capital.

‘Nobody could have anticipated these events,’ he said. ‘There is no failure here.’

A garda is isolated by the mob and struck by a refuse bag

A garda is isolated by the mob and struck by a refuse bag

He added: ‘I think we’ve seen an element of radicalisation. We’ve seen a group of people who take literally a thimbleful of facts, a bathtub of hateful assumptions and then conduct themselves in a way that is riotous and disruptive.’

But Det Gda Hodgins, who is attached to Mountjoy Garda Station, disputed the Commissioner’s version.

He told the MoS: ‘Any time you are looking at footage where a member is isolated from their colleagues and they are being chased down the road and these thugs are shouting ‘kill him’ or ‘kill her’… well, clearly there is no plan in place and it would signal poor leadership.’

Garda Hodgins also rejected the Commissioner’s claim that Thursday’s events were ‘unprecedented’, and pointed to the Love Ulster riots in 2006.

‘I listened to the Commissioner carefully, and he used words like ‘unprecedented’, which is not entirely true because I worked in that division in 2006 and, at almost the exact same spot, I saw a garda set on fire. Not a bus, or a Luas, but a policeman; a human being.

‘It is not unprecedented. The Commissioner also used the word ‘lunatics’. I looked up ‘lunatics’ and it means people with mental health issues, and in my view people with mental health issues couldn’t have been organised as they were.’ Det Gda Hodgins added that this week was the first time the Commissioner has acknowledged there is a ‘shortcoming’ in relation to tactics and training for officers.

He told the MoS: ‘I also noted it was the first time the Commissioner spoke about a review of public order tactics and training and deployment, and it was the first time he even acknowledged a shortcoming in the whole system, because as far as I am aware, up until now, he has reckoned there was nothing to see here.’

Det Gda Hodgins said training and equipment issues formed part of the reason for the recent unprecedented vote of no confidence in Commissioner Harris.

‘Somebody, somewhere has decided not to issue gardaí, as was the case before, with their own personal riot helmet.

‘Previously, gardaí were issued with riot helmets in Templemore [Garda training college] and somebody along the line made a decision not to issue them. We have been shouting about equipment and training for months on end, and it was one of the issues that formed part of the no-confidence vote in the Commissioner. Here we are, a day after the riots, and he is only now acknowledging there is an issue.

‘The gardaí who were isolated and chased down the road – that happened because there was no plan in place, and I am suggesting it happened because there was no plan, despite it happening before,’ Det Gda Hodgins added.

He paid tribute to his colleagues, who he said ‘dropped everything’ and arrived on to the scene wearing soft caps.

Det Garda Hodgins said: ‘You have to acknowledge the gardaí; they were sitting at home and dropped everything and came in with flat caps. All those gardaí who dropped everything to come in at the end of their 28-day cycle, they now have to apply for overtime, and because of the bureaucracy involved in that they may not get that in time for Christmas.’

Broken windows of a shop in Dublin city centre after violent scenes unfolded on Thursday

Broken windows of a shop in Dublin city centre after violent scenes unfolded on Thursday

A bus and car on fire on O'Connell Street in Dublin city centre on Thursday

A bus and car on fire on O’Connell Street in Dublin city centre on Thursday 

Riot police had no choice but to stand by as a car was burning just a few metres away from them on Thursday

Riot police had no choice but to stand by as a car was burning just a few metres away from them on Thursday

Riot police walk next to a burning police vehicle in Dublin on Thursday

Riot police walk next to a burning police vehicle in Dublin on Thursday 

He added that gardaí are working under multiple and ‘oppressive’ layers of oversight, and that criminals have identified this weakness.

‘Our legislators have created a situation where we have gardaí afraid to make a decision for fear of losing their job.

‘This criminal element has identified that, and it is reflected in the amount of abuse and disdain these people have for the gardaí.’

Another senior source said there needs to be a ‘dedicated’ public order unit established to deal with increasing volatility on our streets.

There have been more than 500 protests across Dublin since the start of this year, about a third of which were anti-immigration demonstrations.

The source warned there is ‘rising right-wing discontent out there’.

They told the MoS: ‘They took the city for two to three hours… we need a dedicated national public order or full-time unit for the DMR [Dublin Metropolitan Region].’

The source also stressed gardaí need new legislation to police the rising violence on our streets.

‘The Hate Crime Bill needs to be prioritised and passed and also need dedicated legislation to police volatile protests.’

Post source: The List

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