Garda Commissioner not taking recent arson attacks seriously, Costello tells Dáil

TD says ‘there is a systemic issue here’ following recent incidents at properties earmarked for housing asylum seekers

Green Party TD Patrick Costello has told the Dáil he doesn’t believe Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is taking recent arson attacks at buildings earmarked to house asylum seekers seriously.

Mr Costello said on Wednesday that despite recent arrests, “we are still not taking them seriously” and that people’s lives were “at risk”.

The Dublin South Central TD said since last February, there had been fires and arson attacks at Buncrana, Sandwith Street, Ballincollig, Ballybrack, Sherrard Street, Fermoy, the Holiday Inn off O’Connell Street, Finglas, Rosslare, Rosscahill, Ringsend, Sandyford, Lanesborough, Crooksling and Leixlip.

“There is a systemic issue here that An Garda Síochána is just not facing up to,” he said.


“In their own statements, An Garda Síochána has dismissed any kind of organisation behind this, where there is a clear pattern. The pattern, and the organising behind these attacks, is ultimately a threat to our democracy.”

Mr Costello said a significantly stronger response was needed and the reality was “this is all being done in public – on Facebook and Telegram”.

“These people are proud of what they have done and are bragging about it,” he added. “If we cannot find the evidence or the patterns in public statements that people are bragging about, it is very concerning for the state of gardaí.”

In response, the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she believed gardaí had responded appropriately. Ms McEntee said gardaí do monitor the protests and what was being said online. “However, in order to have prosecutions, you need a huge amount of evidence,” she said.

The Minister said last year there were over 800 protests monitored by gardaí, with 430 of those in the Dublin metropolitan region.

“At those, there were 43 arrests, 32 of which were during the protests,” she said. “However, there were 11 arrests afterwards. While it might not seem like something is happening at the time or on the day, there is work that happens after that.”

Ms McEntee said she spoke with the Garda Commissioner regularly, and assured him of any additional resources he needed.

“While I cannot speak for the Commissioner, I know that he was referring in his statements to the fact that we cannot link every single attack to the same group of people or individuals,” she said.

“There was an incident recently when a vacant building that had nothing to do with any type of accommodation for anyone was set alight. We are talking about acts of criminality. The individuals are criminals, not masterminds.

“As far as I am concerned, these are criminals who are going around setting buildings alight and putting people at risk. We are really lucky that nobody has been seriously injured or worse. The Deputy should be reassured that the Garda is taking this as seriously as necessary.”

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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times