‘Dark day for Dublin’: Shock and anger as scale of destruction from riots comes to light

Damage in area around O’Connell Street in Dublin city centre visible following night of ‘devastation’

The smell of burning plastic and rubber still hung heavy in the air over O’Connell Street as Black Friday dawned following one of the blackest Thursdays in living memory.

At the Luas stop opposite the Gresham Hotel, the charred remains of two barely recognisable double-decker buses had been lifted on to the back of recovery trucks while maintenance workers in Luas-emblazoned high-vis jackets sifted through the wreckage of the shell of a tram, their shovels scraping on the badly burned metal tracks.

This one small pocket of Dublin city looked like a war zone with passers-by shocked at the scale of the wreckage.

While that shock was plain to see among the shoppers heading in to take advantage of the sales, so too was the mounting anger.


That rage was articulated by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Daithí de Róiste who was on the city’s central artery before dawn talking to council workers and surveying the damage done to the city.

“Yesterday was a really dark day for Dublin and on O’Connell Street this morning you can see the devastation that this is after leaving in its wake,” he said.

“Folks come out on the street intent on causing destruction. This wasn’t a protest. At a time when most normal people were at home grieving the terrible incident that happened yesterday and holding their kids a little bit tighter, we had thugs running around our city setting cars, buses, Luases on fire, attacking gardaí, attacking members of Dublin’s fire service, attacking members of the ambulance service. It is absolutely atrocious.”

The chief executive of Arnotts Donald McDonald echoed that anger in a statement in which he noted that the department store was a “very special place, made up of great people and throughout its 180-year history, Arnotts has not alone survived but thrived through tough times, emergencies and many crises”.

He said it was “Dublin’s department store, it is part of Dublin, so shame on those people last night for what they did to our city and our beautiful store”, and added that that while the rioters “may have damaged our store and stolen some merchandise, but they can never damage the Arnotts spirit, we will not allow them”.

Standing at the Luas stop was a man whose partner had given birth to a baby boy on Thursday. He shook his head as he took in what he was looking at.

“I came across the start of the riots yesterday and it was just so shocking. It was opportunists and it has been fuelled by anti-immigration people. I could see the rumours spreading around social media yesterday even in the hospital,” he said.

Another business owner in the locality who asked not to be identified said that he has noticed an undercurrent of violence building up for a long time.

“I couldn’t run my business without immigrants, we need them let’s face it, we have more than half a million foreign nationals here but a little more screening would be in order.”

All the red line Luas trams coming in from Tallaght were stopping at Smithfield, where a large group of staff were directing passengers alighting from the trams on where to go next.

“We have no idea when will be back up and running,” one said. “We have to get the lines cleared and the overhead lines repaired and who knows what is going to happen next.”

A guard standing outside a sportswear shop with all its windows smashed and little mountains of trainers piled up at the badly damaged doors said that the violence had “absolutely nothing to do with stabbing, that’s for sure. It had a lot more to do with this”, he said gesturing towards the trainers piled up in the doorway behind him.

As he spoke, a young woman passed. “Stay safe lads,” she said simply.

Councillor Niall Ring was also in the city centre in the early morning.

“I know the Gaelscoil Choláiste Mhuire really well and there was such a sense of shock and then actually numbness around the area yesterday,” he said.

“Then when it descended into the violence it was just unbelievable. That the terrible thing. We’re all mourning the terrible events shot, and then suddenly it’s all about a mob which were absolutely appalling.”

While crowds gathered at the scene of the burned-out busses and trams, and at other junctions where the clean-up was ongoing phones held high, it was much quieter near the Garden of Remembrance where three children and their carer were stabbed yesterday afternoon.

A line of four gardaí stood silently behind the thin blue tape diverting people away from the scene of the crime.

The silver scooter driven by Caoi Benicio, the Brazilian food delivery driver who had played such a key role in stopping the attacker on Thursday afternoon, remained parked outside the school while the lights remained off and less than 500m away, a five-year-old injured in the attack remained in a critical condition.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast