Irish riot police to be armed with Tasers

Drew Harris entering Leinster House on his way to a meeting with the justice committee
Image caption,Drew Harris was questioned by politicians earlier

Riot police in the Republic of Ireland will be armed with Tasers, Garda Commissioner (police chief) Drew Harris has said.

An Garda Síochána (Ireland’s police force) also hopes to buy two water cannon, Mr Harris told the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) justice committee.

It follows rioting in Dublin on Thursday after three children and a school care assistant were stabbed in Parnell Square East in the Irish capital.

Mr Harris was being questioned by the committee about the disorder

He said it was clear his force was now facing “a different form of disorder than we have experienced before”.

“We in An Garda Síochána must evolve in terms of our tactics and equipment to address this,” he said.

Mr Harris reiterated that he would not resign.

The commissioner added that gardaí (officers) would start to wear body cameras from the middle of 2024 and all frontline gardaí would be issued with stronger incapacitant sprays and more personal safety equipment.

A burned out Luas (tram) is removed from O'Connell Street in Dublin
Image caption,A burned out Luas (tram) being removed from O’Connell Street in Dublin after rioting

The cameras would be deployed in conjunction with a code of practice, developed in line with the digital recording bill, he added.

Mr Harris also told the committee that gardaí had started making changes to operational policing in the wake of the rioting.

He previously blamed the rioting on a “lunatic, hooligan faction driven by a far-right ideology”.

About 500 people were involved in the violence, which led to the Garda deploying more officers than ever before to a public order incident.

Several gardaí were injured, a Luas tram was destroyed and three buses were burned.

The violence began after the stabbings outside Gaelscoil Choláiste Mhuire, when the victims were attacked by a man holding a knife.

Two girls aged five and six were stabbed, along with a six-year-old boy.

Their care assistant, a woman in her 30s, tried to protect the children but she was also stabbed and seriously wounded.

She remains in hospital along with the five-year-old girl, who was critically injured.

The boy was discharged from hospital on Friday while the six-year-old girl, who had head injuries, was discharged over the weekend.

The suspect, who is in his late 40s, is understood to have held Irish citizenship for about 20 years.

He was also taken to hospital after the attack.

No arrests have been made in relation to the stabbing.

‘Spontaneous incident’

Speaking at the justice committee, Mr Harris denied his force lost control of Dublin in the aftermath.

“It was a riot, so that is uncontrollable and our job is to quell that riot…to bring it under control,” he added.

“This was a spontaneous incident.

“There was no prior indication of the scale of what this was.”

Reports have emerged that gardaí were presenting for duty on Thursday after being asked via colleagues on WhatsApp rather than senior officers, while others did not have appropriate riot gear due to the lack of locker space.

Mr Harris said this “was a distortion” and officers would know they were due to be asked to attend their stations and did so.

The commissioner said he wanted to increase the number of gardaí trained and engaged in public order training.

Mr Harris said a high-visibility policing operation, including public order units, will remain in Dublin city centre over the Christmas period.

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