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Violence erupted in central Dublin on Thursday night with several vehicles set ablaze and gangs of youths attacking police following a knife attack near a school which left three small children and two adults injured.
Drew Harris, commissioner of Ireland’s Garda police force, blamed the unrest on a “lunatic hooligan faction driven by far-right ideology”. The clashes erupted after the knifing and had escalated.
Harris said some officers had been injured in “disgraceful scenes”.
A Dublin bus and a tram were among vehicles set on fire in the centre of the Irish capital and images shared on social media showed fireworks being directed at police. Young people set a police car ablaze and jumped on another. Officers with riot shields tried to drive people back. The violence reached as far into town as areas round O’Connell Street.
Some protesters were heard to chant against immigrants, according to media reports
There were also reports of looting spreading in parts of the city centre. Public transport services were suspended.
The children injured in the afternoon stabbing were aged five and six. One five-year-old girl underwent emergency surgery and a woman crèche worker was also receiving emergency treatment. Another girl had less serious injuries and a boy was discharged from hospital.
A male in his 50s also suffered serious injuries, according to police. He is believed to be the attacker.
None were understood to have life-threatening injuries, according to police sources.
“An Garda Síochána is following a definite line of inquiry. The male in his 50s is a person of interest in this investigation. An Garda Síochána is not looking for any other person at this time,” a police statement said.
Justice minister Helen McEntee appealed for calm and said Ireland “will not tolerate” a “thuggish and manipulative element” seeking to use the knife attack to spread division.
Irish President Michael D Higgins condemned the “appalling” knife attack. He said in a statement: “That it would be used or abused by groups with an agenda that attacks the principle of social inclusion is reprehensive and deserves condemnation by all those who believe in the rule of law and democracy.”
Ireland, which has seen record immigration in the past year, has witnessed sporadic far-right protests in recent months and several serious assaults in the city centre, including one which left a US tourist in a coma for several days. But Thursday night’s scenes were the worst in years.
According to official statistics, Ireland received 141,600 immigrants in the year to April 2023, a 16-year high and the second successive 12-month period in which more than 100,000 people arrived in the country.