Garda Commissioner can expect grilling over riots in committee hotseat

Inside Politics: Opposition wants Harris and McEntee to quit, but Coalition support for both remains strong

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will find himself in the political hotseat this afternoon as he faces a grilling from TDs and Senators at the Oireachtas Committee on Justice in the wake of last week’s rioting on the streets of Dublin.

Sinn Féin has called for him, along with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, to resign.

Two Fianna Fáil senators – Erin McGreehan and Timmy Dooley – have also said Mr Harris should step aside.

They are the first voices from Government parties to say this, though support for Mr Harris is solid amongst senior Coalition figures, as it has been for Ms McEntee.


The Opposition on the other hand are a different matter.

As Sarah Burns reports, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has accused the Government of taking part in “an exercise of the most brazen arse-covering” that she has ever heard in the Dáil following last week’s stabbing incident and subsequent rioting.

She said she has “zero confidence” in Ms McEntee and Mr Harris.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he had “full confidence” in both, insisting Ms McEntee had been “leading” and “extremely active” on the issues of law and order and criminal justice during her term in office.

He also said calling for resignations was not the right approach and those who took part in the riots would see it as a victory and it “may even embolden them”.

Mr Harris and his senior management team are to update public representatives on the investigations into the riots to date and future policing plans.

He can expect some tough questions from politicians and it will be the key engagement to watch today.

Ms McEntee filling in for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Leaders’ Questions while he is traveling to the Cop28 climate summit is also likely to be a fractious affair.

All of this will play out against the backdrop of the ongoing Garda investigation into the riots. This is focused on a small hardcore group of far right agitators as detectives try to to unearth evidence that would lead to criminal charges against them.

While the arrests and charges have focused on those allegedly involved in last Thursday’s rioting, another priority element is to bring to justice ringleaders who sparked the violence.

Garda Representative Association representative for the Garda’s Dublin West division Mark Ferris told The Irish Times that although gardaí had shown “courage” in bringing the riots under control, the absence of basic facilities such as lockers at Garda stations hampered the deployment of Public Order Unit members when trouble first flared.

He also said some gardaí had been unwilling to use force against the rioters due to a “culture of outright fear” of being investigated by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) and then prosecuted by the DPP. That view was echoed by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).

Gsoc has denied this, saying it was “concerned at the suggestion” the “independent oversight of policing by Gsoc may have a role in hindering” the Garda’s “ability to effectively and appropriately address public order incidents”. This was “categorically not the case” as it did not discipline, suspend or prosecute gardaí.

Security and Crime Editor Conor Lally explores this issue in a piece headlined, Why were so many gardaí reluctant to tackle Dublin’s rioters?

Expect this issue to be among those raised with the Garda Commissioner when appears before the justice committee from 1.30pm.

Best Reads

The refugee crisis is reaching another pinch point with Jack Horgan-Jones reporting that the State could run out of accommodation for asylum seekers as soon as this week. The prospect of single men being turned away and forced to source their own accommodation – with some ultimately sleeping rough – is a real one, sources said. Tánaiste Micheál Martin said the Government is facing a “challenging situation” to find accommodation for asylum seekers, and that any concerns for their safety would be “exacerbated” if the applicants found themselves homeless.

Harry McGee reports that parents of some of the children affected by the knife attack last Thursday outside a Dublin primary school have expressed serious disquiet at the lack of support from the State in the days after the incident. Parents from the school have contacted The Irish Times to express their disappointment at the absence of any contact from psychologists, counsellors, support services or politicians between the time of the attack on Thursday and Monday morning.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has joined Senators Lisa Chambers and Niall Blaney in expressing an interest in running in next year’s European Elections in the Midlands North West constituency. His announcement will spark a race to win the party’s nomination in what is likely to be a two-candidate strategy to win seats in an area where Fianna Fail currently has none.


After last week’s rioting in Dublin all eyes will be on the Committee on Justice where TDs and Senators will have an opportunity to quiz Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. It starts at 1.30pm.

Dáil proceedings start with a session on Topical Issues at 9.10am.

Leaders’ Questions – with under pressure justice minister Helen McEntee filing in for the Taoiseach – is at noon.

Government business in the afternoon includes a motion on the proposed approval of regulations for the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund and debates on the legislation on health insurance and the redrawing of Dáil constituencies.

Perhaps the one to watch will be the debate on the Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill 2022 – the legislation to allow for body-worn cameras for gardaí which is topical given last week’s unrest in Dublin.

The weekly Dáil votes are due to take place from 9.04pm onwards.

Fine Gael Senators have a motion on the recent violence in the capital which will be debated form 2.30pm.

Supplementary estimates week continues in committeeland. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will be at the Committee on Health at 9.30am to be quizzed on the €960 million bailout for the health service for 2023. Other committees looking at supplementary estimates include the Committee on Enterprise (9.30am) and the Committee on Education (5.30pm).

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys will be before the Committee on Social Protection as it considers the Social Welfare Bill – the legislation that brings in measures announced in Budget 2024. This is at 11.30am.

The Committee on Transport will hear from the National Transport Authority, Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead Ireland as part of a discussion on bus services in Dublin, Wicklow, Meath and Kildare.

Follow these links for the full Dáil, Seanad and Committee schedules.

Sign up for Politics push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone