Posted on November 27, 2023

Dublin Riots: Varadkar Vows to Punish Racists Responsible as Immigrants Fear More Attacks

Shawn Pogatchnik, Politico, November 24, 2023

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar vowed Friday to crack down on racist extremists who fought street battles with riot police — a “Rubicon moment” for a state ill-equipped to combat rising working-class animosity to immigrants.

Thursday night’s unprecedented anti-immigration riots were triggered by the stabbing of three young children and an adult carer outside their school in the heart of Dublin, critically wounding a 5-year-old girl. Onlookers quickly wrestled a knife-wielding man to the ground – and social media accounts run by anti-immigrant campaigners almost as speedily branded the suspect a foreigner.

Online chat groups directed militants to the crime scene, where outnumbered police scrambled for reinforcements as the growing mob hurled fireworks and chanted slogans demanding that immigrants leave Ireland. Hundreds fanned out into nearby streets. Some burned police cars, three buses and a light-rail train. Others looted more than a dozen shops. {snip}

Varadkar said the government within weeks would pass two key pieces of legislation. One would empower police to use facial-recognition technology to track Thursday night’s rioters captured by surveillance cameras on buses, trains, private vehicles and shops. The other would give police new powers to prosecute online promoters of hate speech.

“It’s now obvious to anyone who might have doubted it that our incitement to hatred legislation is just not up to date for the social media age,” said Varadkar, whose country hosts the European headquarters of most social media companies, including X, TikTok and Facebook.

Referring to Irish social media accounts with large followings and racist messages, he said, “We need laws to be able to go after them individually … They’re to blame and we’re going to get them.”


Ireland, a rapidly growing nation of 5 million, last year admitted more than 120,000 immigrants, a 15-year high that included an ongoing disproportionate intake of Ukrainian war refugees. {snip}

Varadkar, who is the son of an immigrant Indian doctor, said Ireland was stronger and wealthier today because of its open approach to migration.

“We’re a country of migrants. We’ve gone all over the world as a people,” he said. “Our public services wouldn’t operate without migration. There’d be nobody to look after the sick or to care for the old, certainly not enough people.”

“When I go into big companies, whether it’s tech companies or companies that produce medical devices or pharmaceuticals, I see how diverse the workforce is,” he said. “And these are the companies and the people who pay massive amounts of tax that allow us to build social housing and schools, and to fund our public services and our welfare system. If it wasn’t for migrants, this country would be a vastly inferior place to what it is.”