Dublin riots: McEntee to seek clarity on use of force by gardaí from Policing Authority

Opposition parties signal that they would support a motion of no confidence in minister if it is tabled by Sinn Féin

Members of An Garda Síochána need to have “absolute clarity” on what levels of force they can use when faced with rioting of the sort that took place in Dublin on Thursday night so they are not “looking over their shoulders,” the Minister for Justice has said.

Helen McEntee said on Tuesday morning gardaí are authorised to use force where it is appropriate but she would be asking the Policing Authority to provide greater clarity on the levels permitted in given situations as to provide reassurance to members of the force.

“I don’t want members of An Garda Síochána looking over their shoulders responding to these incidents where they feel that force is necessary,” said the Minister. “I want them to have the confidence to respond in the way that they deem appropriate.

“So I am asking the authority to provide that clarity for members of An Garda Síochána so they do not feel that they are operating with their hands behind their backs.


“There were serious thugs and criminals who went out not just to cause disruption and destruction but to harm people on Thursday night and Gardaí need to be able to respond with the appropriate force. And so I want that absolute clarity provided to them.

“I’ve been speaking to Garda members, those who have been on the frontline, those who did an excellent job in restoring order on Thursday night and I want to make sure that they have everything available to them to respond to these types of incidents. I’ve asked the policing authority to look at what further equipment, what further resources Gardaí might need in dealing with these situations.”

Asked if she was concerned about calls for her resignation, she said she was “absolutely focused” on doing her job.

Speaking to reporters at Government Buildings on Tuesday afternoon, Ms McEntee said it could be several months before prosecutions of those involved in the disturbances were secured. “It will take time for gardaí to gather all the evidence on these individuals to identify all of (them), so yes, it potentially will take months for prosecutions to take place,” she said. Ms McEntee promised further arrests in the coming weeks. “There will be prosecutions and many more will be charged and brought before the courts,” she said.

Ms McEntee reiterated that she wanted clarity for the Garda on the appropriate use of force by members.

“Gardaí should be able to defend themselves, they should be able to respond with force where they deem appropriate and I fully trust the decisions they make but it’s important to give them clarity when they make those decisions.”

Ms McEntee said there would be an increased Garda presence on the ground up to and including the Christmas period, attributing the lack of far right protests since last Thursday partially to the “huge work” the force had done since then. She said that legislation on Facial Recognition Technology would be brought to government before Christmas and said its absence is currently making the job of individual gardaí “that little bit more difficult in trying to identify those who were responsible for that carnage that we saw in certain parts of our city centre”.

Amid calls from Garda representative groups to reduce the impact of GSOC investigations on their members, she said that the community policing and security bill would speed up the process of investigating complaints. But she said she fully acknowledged GSOC “could be working better in terms of the length of time that cases are taking and the processes which are being used and that’s why these changes are being made and they will be enacted in the New Year”.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he has “full confidence” in the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Garda management in the Dáil on Tuesday.

Mr Varadkar was responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who said she had “zero confidence” in both Ms McEntee and Mr Harris while the “cold truth” was that they had lost control of Dublin city centre.

Ms McDonald added that the justice minister’s position was “now untenable” and that gardaí were left “high and dry” last Thursday.

Elsewhere, the Social Democrats, Labour and People Before Profit all indicated that they would vote no confidence in Ms McEntee should Sinn Féin table a motion of no confidence in the justice minister.

Sinn Féin has said it will consider its options including a possible motion of no confidence if Ms McEntee does not voluntarily step down from her position.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said: “I don’t have confidence in the minister” and his party colleague Catherine Murphy said: “They need to give us a reason to be confident and we don’t have that at the moment.”

Speaking outside Leinster House Ms Murphy also criticised suggestions by Ms McEntee that Dublin is safe.

She said: “We need to stop hearing the Minister for Justice saying that Dublin is safe.

“That is just infuriating people when people don’t feel safe”.

She added: “There has been an issue for a very considerable period of time and it’s only when you go to other countries and other cities and you feel safe in those cities… that you realise just how unsafe parts of Dublin are.”

Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan accused the Government of a response to the riots that is “both half-hearted and completely missing the point”.

She said Ms McEntee “seems to think she’s going to be able to legislate out of this with things like facial recognition technology. That’s not the issue.”

She said the issues are operational as well as problems with the recruitment and retention of gardaí.

Ms Moynihan said Labour will not vote confidence in the minister if it comes to a Dáil vote.

Cork North Central TD Mick Barry said People Before Profit-Solidarity would vote no confidence in the minister if a motion is tabled in the Dáil.

He separately said nearly all workplaces now have staff of different ethnicities and workers from other countries and he called for unions and all workplaces to begin urgent discussions on “how best to protect migrant workers and workers who might be particularly vulnerable in the current situation”.

He asked for such discussions to address “How can we show solidarity and show that an injury to one is an injury to all.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times