11th December 2023

As we move into December the topic engaging many in the public arena over this past 8 days has been the riots in the streets of Dublin on the night of the 23rd November. Our contributor Seamus Gunn today highlighted the changes in policing that have been brought forward and implemented since the night in question which seen an unprecedented situation develop in the inner city. He said that given the limitations and the fact that such a scene has never been witnessed before, the Gardai had to be commended for the manner in which they contained and defused the riot which was in the aftermath of an atrocity outside a school when 3 children and a carer were stabbed. He was of the view that this could be the catalyst for change within the rank and file and in policing such incidents in the future. He said that it was remarkable that changes that were long needed have more or less been brought in overnight, such as tasers, water cannon, helmets and body cameras. He referenced the recent passing of legislation to allow body cameras to be used by members.

Greg Hughes made the point that for some time on social media this had been brewing and that it was Drew Harris’ failing to take criticism before the Dáil Committee that was an issue in itself. Our contributor thought that in light of the circumstances, as the incident developed on the night in question, as it was impossible to predict that the stabbing incident could have been used in a manner to promote an unlawful assembly for the purpose of a riot, the manpower required would not have been known. He said that it was an evolving situation, which was being dealt with as it did arise. He was of the view that members of the force were put in harm’s way and that they were ill equipped to deal with it, being sent in to defuse a riot without as much as a helmet provided. Our contributor thought if nothing else came of it but that basic riot apparel as needed by members would now be put in place, then this would be progress. The implementation of the Digital Services Act was a positive and that Ireland was the first country to trigger an alert under this new piece of EU Legislation addressing online hate speech. This involves the European Commission in contacting social media platforms warning them of their obligations under the new legislation. He said that it was worth noting that it was only Meta who had Irish speaking moderators, hence it was easy for those who were intent in participating in the riot to communicate on other platforms who did not have Irish Moderators, referencing X (Twitter), Google and YouTube. Greg Hughes had reservations about how intrusive this could be as it could lead to policing of ordinary texts between private individuals. Our contributor made the point of balancing civil liberties as against policing traffic of online hate speech and the media platforms had to have some responsibility in reporting such activity. There is likely to be a lot more debate on the Public Order implications rising out of the events of the 23rd November last. 

The usual varied Q&A that followed can be listed to online.