Dublin stabbing: how the chaos unfolded on Parnell Square

Journalists rushed from Stardust inquests across the road after a survivor of the blaze told them of the incident

Shortly after 1.40pm on Thursday, journalists covering the Stardust inquests were filing lunchtime copy in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda hospital, where inquests have been under way since April. Deirdre Dames, a survivor of the 1981 fire rushed in, alerting us that someone was “after stabbing kids out there”.

RTÉ’s Conor Hunt and I, along with several others, followed her out to Parnell Square East where there were already four or five ambulances, several Dublin Fire Brigade appliances manned by paramedics and several Garda cars, as sirens blared as more arrived.

Across the road on the pavement outside Delfin English language school, a man in his 50s lay with blood around his face and chest as paramedics tended to him.

Further up towards North Frederick Street, more paramedics were working on a little girl, also lying on the pavement just a little way up from Gaelscoil Choláiste Mhuire primary school.


She appeared to be about five or six years old. A small pink backpack lay on the ground beside the scene. Her small pink or purple shoes were visible as she was lifted on to a stretcher and into an ambulance.

On steps at the doorway behind a young woman was sitting, crouched over, clearly distressed, leaning into the steps. There was blood on her back and she was helped by paramedics to her feet, on to a stretcher and into an ambulance.

Huge numbers of people still filled the footpaths as gardaí began clearing the scene, pulling ‘crime-scene’ tape across both ends of this side of the square and shouting at onlookers to stop taking photographs and video footage.

Many people were looking on from windows in the high Georgian buildings overlooking the scene as emergency services continued to arrive and medics ran from the Rotunda hospital to the scene, some carrying emergency medical kits.

Eyewitnesses included relatives of those who died in the Stardust, many of whom attend the inquests daily. Some had been getting fresh air and smoking cigarettes at the entrance to the Pillar Room, just across from where the incident unfolded.

Siobhán Kearney heard “screaming” and “spotted a guy with a stabbing motion across the road”, she said.

“So I took across the road and there was fellas there and they pulled the guy off the children. There was a good few kids.” The children were “between the ages of four, five and six, no older” and were “only just after finishing school”.

She said a number of people pulled the alleged perpetrator from “children” kicking him to the ground. “A few people were attacking [him] and me and an American girl formed a ring around the culprit and so the Garda could deal with him in due course.”

Another eyewitness, attending the inquests to support her mother who was due to give evidence on Thursday, said she went over as people were dragging the man from children.

“You could see the stabbing movements. It was frenzied. Someone passed me a little girl. She was hysterical...I passed her into the school. They said a girl had been stabbed.”

Ms Kearney had not seen how seriously injured the little girl was. “I just seen the blood,” she said.

She said emergency services arrived within minutes. An ambulance attended to the children and the injured girl first, with a second, along with fire appliances manned by DFB paramedics on the scene afterward.

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A man on a bike or moped took the knife from the man, she continued. “The fellah got the knife. He cut his hand – he threw it across the grass.”

The knife was described as “long” and “about ten inches”, by Ms Kearney. She said the second man tossed the knife to a grass patch under trees, across the road by the Rotunda hospital. She pointed this out to gardaí who removed it from the scene.

Parnell Square East remained cordoned off by midafternoon. Ambulances and fire appliances had left, leaving the scene in the hands of numerous gardaí and detectives.