December 5, 2023
Mary Lou McDonald expresses no confidence in Justice Minister

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD today expressed no confidence in Justice Minister Helen McEntee during a Dáil debate on the issue.

Her contribution can be read below in full:

The streets of Dublin City’s north inner city haven’t been safe for a long time.The area is scourged by open drug dealing and drug taking, on-street nuisance drinking, constant and threatening anti-social behaviour.

It’s in this abnormal atmosphere that people go about their lives.

Workers make their daily journeys to work, and parents do the school drop offs with an ever-present hum of menace, risk, and an overriding lack of personal safety.

Over the course of Fine Gael’s twelve years in government, people have been robbed of their safety.
Garda stations have been closed or put on reduced hours.

Community Garda numbers have been decimated.

Gone too are the days of the Garda on the beat – the very bedrock of effective community policing.
This has contributed to a general feeling of lawlessness and an unsafe environment.

The response of government at best has been to skirt around the problem.

At worst, to completely abandon these communities.

The school community of Gaelscoil Cholaiste Mhuire recognise well that low, relentless hum of danger and lack of safety.

The children, parents and staff live with it every day.

Thursday, November 23rd started like any other day, it turned into a day they will never forget. None of us will.

Three small children and crèche manager, Leanne Flynn stabbed in broad daylight outside of the school.
Leanne bravery stood between the attacker and the children, risking her own life to save their young lives.

Courageous members of the public, people who represent all that is good about Dublin, stepped in to apprehend the perpetrator and certainly prevented further harm.

What occurred in the aftermath of this horrific attack constitutes a catastrophic and unprecedented collapse in public safety.

Control of Dublin City Centre was lost to a mob who sought to exploit the attacks to sow hate and division.
As those poor children and Leanne received emergency treatment in hospital, there was mayhem and destruction on the streets of our capital.

Garda cars, buses, and a Luas tram burned out.

Gardaí assaulted, emergency responders targeted, shops looted, retail workers, transport workers and citizens terrified.

Everyone who stood their ground that evening deserve our praise and our thanks.

Gardaí in particular are to be commended.

They came under sustained attack. They were very much in the way of danger.

This riot was entirely predictable. It was coming. The instigators didn’t try to hide their intent.

It was openly orchestrated immediately following the attacks.

But there was no plan to respond to do this.

According to the GRA, no central instruction issued to Gardai.

They were left to organise themselves via whatsapp.

It is clear this riot compounded the fact that there was not enough Gardai at hand in order to support their colleagues.

I have full confidence in An Garda Siochana.

I’ve zero confidence in the Minister for Justice.

In any other walk of life, in any other organisation, the person presiding over such a colossal failure would be sacked.

Those who vote confidence in the Minister are endorsing grave failure.

Over the past twelve days, much has been said about the riots.

Not enough has been said about the events earlier that day – the stabbing of three small children and Leanne Flynn.

The gravity and trauma of this horrific attack hasn’t been fully acknowledged or fully understood.

It took nearly two weeks for government to reach out to the school community.

Many parents tell me they feel forgotten, vulnerable, afraid.

They’re angry.

Incredible work was done to get the children back to school.

I want to acknowledge múinteoir Pól Hansard and his staff.

But where was the immediate emergency response from the government to make those children feel safe?

Only days after the stabbing of three of their classmates, as Leanne Flynn lay in her hospital bed, it was back to business as usual for the area surrounding Gaelscoil Cholaiste Mhuire.

Strangers street-drinking and not a Garda in sight.

Those who live and work here, who walk these streets, who have grown up in Dublin and who love this city, know the score.

The broken lives, broken spirits, broken health and bodies of the walking wounded.

You refer to them as vulnerable.

I call them brutalised, forgotten, and failed by government after government.

By a system and a state that grinds them up, allows them to fall through the cracks and then wrings its hands in faux outrage when we reach a horrific flashpoint.

It’s government that should be held accountable for this travesty.

Small children should never have to shoulder that traumatising burden.

The vast majority of these lost souls are not violent people.

But they congregate in the city centre.

They have nowhere to go once the hostels chuck them out in the morning.

They gather every day at the Garden of Remembrance opposite Gaelscoil Cholaiste Mhuire.

Each one with their own heart-breaking story.

They hang around.

On Thursday, the twenty-third of November, a random individual was hanging around the school.

Nothing new or particularly alarming there.

But on this day, a knife is produced.

Wounds were inflicted.

Blood was spilt.

Children screamed.

Sirens wailed.

Word spread.

Parents, hearts in their mouths, ran to the school.

Panic was the overwhelming feeling.

The overwhelming fear – is my little one hurt?

For three families, the news wasn’t good.

The nightmare of every parent came to pass.

Let me be clear.

The only person responsible for this stabbing nightmare is the perpetrator.

The only people responsible for the riot are the rioters.

But it is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice to ensure that our streets are safe.

To ensure An Garda Siochana have the resources that they need.

She failed in this responsibility abysmally and with dire consequences.

Bhí an tAire McEntee i gceannas nuair a thit an phóilíneacht inár bpríomhchathair as a chéile.

Ní féidir leí fanacht sa phost. Caithfidh sí imeacht.

For a very long time now, our streets haven’t safe.

Despite communities and businesses crying it from the rooftops, there is no step-change or urgency from the government.

That change must start now.

Even in these darkest of times, I still believe that we can turn the tide back in favour of community.

With the right policies and determination from government, confidence in public safety can be restored and strengthened.

Our communities and the Gardaí who we send out to uphold public safety deserve better.

It is time to make public safety the priority, to give the gardaí the support and the resources they need and to put more gardaí on the streets.

To invest in strong, compassionate communities.

You say the opposition is politicising this issue.

So, let me say it clearly.

There is nothing more political than keeping people safe.

In fact, the first responsibility of any government worthy of the name is to keep its citizens safe.

To make sure this happens, we need a major change of direction.

But Minister McEntee has proven incapable of providing the leadership, direction and the purpose needed to make our streets and communities safe.

The Minister’s position is untenable.

She needs to go.

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