27 February 2006

Dissident republicans blamed for planning Dublin violence

Irish Times

Mark Brennock & Patsy McGarry
27 February 2006

The Government is to work to identify and expose any dissident republican or Sinn Féin elements involved in orchestrating Saturday's riots in Dublin which injured 14 people and caused major damage to business premises and property.

The Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice blamed dissident republicans for organising the violence which caused the abandonment of the planned "Love Ulster" march down O'Connell Street. However, the violence failed to prevent a brief loyalist parade from going past Leinster House.

Mr McDowell and Mr Ahern said hooligan elements had joined the riots, but that many had gone to the scene with what the Taoiseach described as "serious intent".

Gardaí arrested 42 people, 13 of whom were charged at a special sitting of Dublin District Court at the Bridewell on Saturday night. They were charged variously with arson, criminal damage, public order offences and looting. More are expected to be charged today.

Tomorrow's Cabinet meeting will receive an initial operational Garda report on the riots, which is produced as a matter of routine after such an event. Mr McDowell said yesterday he was seeking a fuller report on the "real perpetrators" of the violence, signalling Government determination to expose any republican elements involved in orchestrating the violence.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Al McHugh said that some people had arrived with "snooker balls, petrol bombs and lump hammers". A few hundred people had come out of pubs and side streets to join in. All those hurt received relatively minor injuries and were released from hospital on Saturday.

Dublin Chamber of Commerce estimates that as much as €10 million may have been lost by businesses through closures and damage as a result of Saturday's riots. Several shopfronts were smashed using paving slabs set aside for O'Connell Street's reconstruction. Shops which sustained the most damage were forced to remain closed yesterday.

While some rioters came prepared on Saturday, many were teenagers and some were as young as 12. Eyewitnesses said many of them appeared to have joined in an unexpected eruption of mayhem.

Ruairí Óg Ó Brádaigh of Republican Sinn Féin last night rejected claims that his organisation was involved in orchestrating the violence. The party had held a peaceful protest at a different part of the street, he said.

"As far as we are concerned, none of our members were involved. I have seen no evidence to the contrary and I haven't seen any of our members being charged. When it was clear the [ unionist] march was not proceeding we packed up our banners and went home."

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams condemned the violence as "entirely wrong and reprehensible" and said his party had urged people not to protest. There was no evidence yesterday to back claims that some Sinn Féin activists were involved, although witnesses reported seeing protesters from Republican Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Socialist Party in the same location as the rioting mob.

The Taoiseach dismissed reports that rioters had been "bused in" to the city, saying they were predominantly local people.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who was in Dublin for the march, was among those claiming that Sinn Féin activists were involved in the rioting.

"The police confirmed to us that a number of Sinn Féin activists were involved. Clearly the Sinn Féin leadership is not in control of these people," he said.

The chairman of the committee organising the 1916 commemoration parade on Easter Sunday, Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea, said he was determined that "similar elements will not be able to hijack the event".

The parade would go ahead, but the Government was now "alive to the possibility of an attempt to hijack the commemoration" and there could be extra policing.

Opposition politicians questioned the level of Garda preparedness for Saturday's riots and asked why piles of bricks being used in construction work on O'Connell Street were easily accessed by rioters.

Mr McDowell said the Garda had had no prior warning that such violence would take place. Blame should be laid where it belonged: on "a thuggish fascist fringe" who denied others the right to march.

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