Friction over immigration has been exploited by organised racist groups to whip up mob violence.
Police in Dublin say they have arrested more than 30 people after a night of rioting and looting that saw shops and public transport infrastructure smashed and set on fire by far-right racist gangs.
The violence broke out in the Irish capital on Thursday evening after a knife attack in the city centre which left a 5-year-old girl and a school care assistant in critical condition. The police have arrested a suspect.
Online far-right groups and activists posted under hashtags such as “Ireland is Full” and “Ireland for the Irish”, variously rounding on immigrants, asylum seekers and non-white people in general as they justified the violence as a proportionate response to the stabbing – while also blaming “non-Irish” people for looting shops.
According to Justice Minister Helen McEntee, around 200 people “wreaked havoc across the city”.
As Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned that further protests are being organised online, Ireland’s police commissioner Drew Harris told journalists that a “hooligan faction driven by far-right ideology” was behind the violence.
In a press conference on Friday morning, Harris defended the speed of the police response despite a build-up of anti-immigrant tensions on social media in advance of the violence and pointed to the large element of the mob that simply looted shops, in particular sportswear retailers.
“It has to be said that the crowds of those at first protesting, filled with hate directed towards members of An Garda Síochána (the police), were then supplemented with those who were only intent upon crime, disorder and the looting of premises.”
However, he also conveyed the seriousness of the far-right element on display last night, which he said had never exploded in public like this before.
“We have not seen a public order situation like this before…I think that we’ve seen an element of radicalisation. I think we have seen a group of people who take literally a thimbleful of facts and make a bathtub of assumptions, hateful assumptions, and then conduct themselves in a way that is riotous and disruptive to our society.”
The riots began in earnest several hours after the stabbing incident as a protest apparently turned violent. Police armed with shields fended off violent demonstrators attempting to kick and punch them. Many of those attacking the police had their faces covered.
A number of police vehicles and a tram were damaged during the disorder in the city centre. A bus and car were also set on fire on the city’s O’Connell Street Bridge.
Videos posted on social media showed a man shoving a flaming box inside a police car and closing the door, and when the vehicle caught on fire the mob of more than 50 people cheered and roared their approval.
Other videos showed a tram with smashed windows set on fire while a crowd of more than a hundred people stood nearby. Meanwhile, racist comments on social media under video of a bus engulfed in flames included “immigrants are the problem”, and “there wouldn’t be any riots if there wasn’t any diversity.”
In a statement, Ireland’s President Michael Higgins warned that the stabbing attack “would be used or abused by groups with an agenda that attacks the principle of social inclusion is reprehensible, and deserves condemnation by all those who believe in the rule of law and democracy.”
In a live news report by an RTE journalist on Thursday night, protesters could be heard chanting “close the borders” in the background.
Irish MMA star Conor McGregor wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter “There is grave danger among us in Ireland that should never be here in the first place.”
In a statement on Friday morning, Varadkar promised to strengthen Ireland’s hate speech laws while condemning the violence and the extremist groups behind it – addressing them directly in the strongest of terms.
“To all those cowardly champions of Ireland who took to the streets of Dublin last night, let me say one thing: ask your sisters, ask your friends, ask everyone you know what they fear most on our streets,” he said. “They’re afraid of you, afraid of your anger and your rage, afraid of your violence, your hate and how you blame others for your problems.
“As a government, we will be relentless in protecting our citizens and defending our people.”__Courtesy EuroNews