Garda Commissioner says force must 'evolve' tactics in wake of Dublin rioting as he rejects resignation calls

Garda Commissioner says force must 'evolve' tactics in wake of Dublin rioting as he rejects resignation calls

GARDA COMMISSIONER Drew Harris has said the force must 'evolve our tactics' in the wake of last week's rioting in Dublin.

Mr Harris was addressing the Oireachtas Committee on Justice on Wednesday, where he defended the garda response to a stabbing incident and the subsequent disorder.

Shops were looted and public transport and Garda vehicles were set alight, with gardaí subsequently making 38 arrests.

Some of the changes being implemented for An Garda Siochána include taser guns for Public Order Units and body-worn cameras for city centre gardaí.

Despite a grilling from TDs and Senators, the Commissioner also revealed he had no plans to step down, saying: "I care too much about this job."

'Different form of disorder'

The rioting followed a stabbing attack on children, which has left one girl in a critical condition while a care assistant also remains in hospital.

James Lawless, Chair of the Committee on Justice, said the 'horrific attack… was then used as a justification by thugs to rile up division, hatred, racism, chaos and anarchy on the streets of Dublin'.

Outlining the Garda response, Mr Harris said a 25-strong Public Order Unit was on the scene within 45 minutes of the attack.

He claimed trouble began to flair at 4.30pm when a group blocked the Luas at the Parnell Street and O'Connell Street junction, while two hours later, Garda and public transport vehicles were set alight and looting began.

Members of the Garda Public Order Unit set up cordons on O'Connell Street and Parnell Street last Thursday as a car burns in the background (Image: Sasko Lazarov /

However, Mr Harris said that at this time, 'there was already a significant Garda presence in the city and by 7pm further gardaí were arriving'.

By 8pm, with approximately 500 people engaged in rioting, he revealed there were 250 Public Order Unit gardaí on the streets, the largest-ever deployment.

This was complemented by 150 gardaí, the dog unit, mounted unit and air support unit, with Mr Harris saying calm was largely restored by 10pm.

However, he said the force needed to adapt to face 'a different form of disorder than we have experienced before'.

"An Garda Síochána must evolve our tactics and equipment to address this," said Mr Harris.

He revealed that the force will be adding 1,000 trained Public Order Unit gardai, while all gardaí will be given stronger incapacitant spray as part of their operational day-to-day equipment.

There was a heavier Garda presence on the streets of Dublin this afternoon (Image: Leah Farrell /

Public Order Units will also be provided with 200 tasers as well as smaller, round shields that are considered more manageable when dealing with incidents of disorder.

Mr Harris revealed he had also made plans to permanently purchase two water cannons that had been acquired and were ready to deploy by Friday night.

It is also hoped that all city centre gardaí will have body-worn cameras by the first quarter of 2024, while proposals have been put forward to expand the dog unit and increase the number of Garda data scientists.

'People are terrified'

While Senators and TDs praised the gardaí involved on the ground, some questioned whether the force was adequately prepared or responded in a timely and appropriate manner.

"I appreciate that it was an unprecedented situation and nobody could have foreseen the level of violence that occurred, but is it fair to say that based on events of the last year to 18 months, we could see the level of activity begin to ratchet-up?" asked Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher.

"Is it fair to say that perhaps Garda management should have been more aware of the potential for this to escalate?"

Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy added: "Rightly or wrongly, people feel that An Garda Síochána does not deal with these situations in a fast enough way when they start to develop.

"They are terrified because the next thing is we see a Luas tram being burnt out or gardaí being attacked."

Despite his comments, Mr Brophy said he didn’t agree with calls for Mr Harris to step down.

When the Deputy asked Mr Harris how he felt about the suggestions, the Commissioner reiterated his commitment to the role, including dealing with the fallout from Thursday.

"I am not going to resign. I care too much about this job," said Mr Harris.

"I care too much about the responsibilities that I have to protect the people of Ireland and to lead An Garda Síochána.

"I have a huge amount of work to do and part of that work is the response to this. I have no intention whatsoever of resigning."