On Thursday evening, chaos erupted in Dublin City Centre, with numerous vehicles set on fire and shops vandalised and looted as rioters forcefully marched through the heart of the capital. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris denounced the violence that unfolded throughout the night, characterising the group responsible as an “extremist hooligan faction fueled by far-right ideology.”
How the events unfolded:
Around 1.30pm, a man in his 50s approached Gaelscoil Cólaiste Mhuire, a Dublin city primary school located in Parnell Square, wielding a knife, and proceeded to attack four people. Three young children, a woman, and the man were taken to hospital for treatment. The assailant was disarmed by Brazilian Deliveroo driver Caio Benicio and taken into custody. The man was discovered to be in serious condition and reportedly remains in custody at an undisclosed hospital in Dublin.
News began to circulate around 3pm that indicated two of the victims, including a five-year-old girl, were left in critical condition. Gardaí confirmed that there was no additional person of interest in the case and they were following a “definite line of inquiry.”
3.30pm – 6.30pm
In the hours that followed, Gardaí continued to provide updates as to the condition of the victims and the assailant.
Gardaí also stated the incident was “standalone” and that they did not believe it was terror-related. Soon after, information was released that the alleged attacker was a non-Irish national. It has since been confirmed that he is a naturalised Irish citizen from Algeria.
Hashtags such as #IrelandIsfull and #EnoughIsEnough began to trend on social media.
Around 6.30pm, a crowd of protestors formed near Parnell Square where the attack took place. Gardaí were dispatched to the area; minor clashes with protestors occurred and sounds of explosions were reported.
Shortly after, hundreds of others joined the scene. The mob began to move down O’Connell Street, setting fire to a Garda patrol car and lighting fireworks.
Gardaí in riot gear wielding shields and batons approached O’Connell Street, attempting to block the protestors and calm the situation. Dublin residents were advised to seek shelter and remain indoors. As the night progressed, the violence intensified.
Around 7.30pm, images and videos emerged on social media of Dublin buses, a Luas tram, and more Garda patrol cars engulfed in flames. Additional footage showed protestors harassing passersby and Gardaí.
At 8pm it was reported that Arnott’s, Foot Locker, and other stores in the area were looted and sustained significant damage. Footage also emerged depicting the protestors chanting anti-immigrant rhetoric and holding “Irish Lives Matters” signs, linking the riots to the attack earlier in the day.
Just before 8.30pm, the Luas operator announced that all Luas services were suspended.
At 8.50pm, College closed all entrance gates. Kinsella Hall, the Graduates Memorial Building (GMB), and the 1937 Reading Room were instructed to remain open for the safety of students and staff.
Protestors continued to spread across the Quays and successfully breached the Temple Bar region. They continued to engage in looting and acts of destruction. Gardaí reported injuries and advised Dublin residents to stay vigilant and remain indoors. At this time, it was estimated over 500 protestors were involved.
Around 9.30pm, Irish Rail announced the closure of Tara Street station and Dublin Bus announced the suspension of all its services.
Members of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), along with members of the College Historical Society (the Hist) and the University Philosophical Society (the Phil) coordinated refuge spaces for students unable to leave the city centre on account of cancelled public transport.
House 6 and the Graduate Memorial Building became the centre point for student spaces overnight, as residents on campus, including TCDSU Education Officer Catherine Arnold, began cooking food for students who had not yet eaten.
In an interview with Trinity News, Provost Linda Doyle condemned the far-right riots, stating “It’s unbelievably shocking what’s happening. This is unacceptable in every way and just disgusting… violence has no place.”
“This is a moment in time where we need to ensure democracy in Ireland isn’t threatened in any way.”
At 10.30pm, Gardaí reported the city was “mainly calm” and that the situation was beginning to ease. Tara Street station reopened at this time.
As the rioting slowed and the city quietened, College remained closed and instructed students and staff to stay on campus overnight.
After formalising plans to allow students to sleep on campus overnight, students and staff began organising spaces for students to sleep overnight, as spare mattresses owned by College and students’ own bedding were offered to spending an unusual nights on campus.
It is understood at its peak, roughly 300 students were staying in House 6 or GMB. Overnight, students said there were “at least 100” non-resident College students sleeping on spare mattresses and couches across the two buildings.
At 3am on Friday morning, Dublin City Council was cleared by authorities to begin clean-up operations.
As residents woke to the destruction left behind by rioters, Dublin Bus and the Luas operator announced only some of their services would be running on Friday, avoiding O’Connell Street and surrounding areas in the City Centre. Gardaí informed there would be increased Garda presence across the city in lieu of any threats.
College sent an email announcing the campus is open following “public disorder”, however it noted the situation remained “closely watched”. Students were advised to monitor public transport as delays were expected and confirmed students would not be negatively impacted if they did not lectures or tutorials.
At 8am, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris confirmed that seven vehicles – three buses, three Garda patrol cars, and one Luas tram – were significantly damaged by fire. Eight other vehicles and at least 13 properties were also reported to be damaged. One Garda official sustained serious injuries during the riots.
College sent another email confirming the campus has reopened early Friday morning as it continued normal operations throughout the day. However, it confirmed there were delays to public transport as a result of unrest. Students who stayed overnight were informed they would not be penalised if they went home and missed lectures as a result.
Several society and union events were cancelled throughout the day as a result of the riots.
In an email sent to students on Friday evening, Doyle announced that the scheduled Christmas tree lighting would be postponed as a result of the unrest. It is not yet clear when the event will be rescheduled to.
Doyle praised the coordination between students and staff the previous evening and said: “Trinity College Dublin has long been a force for progressive values in Irish society… At this uncertain time in society, our university will continue to stand firmly for these values.”
This article was updated at 8:52pm on 28/11/23 to reflect that four people were attacked while five were taken to hospital including the attacker. Trinity News apologies for this error.