Sunday, March 05, 2006

Micks with Bricks

Dublin Riots: What Happened and Why
A political analysis of the Dublin riots and why nobody saw them coming
by Joe - WSM - personal capacity

I, like almost everybody I know, didn't predict the events of Saturday. In fact the only person I know who did predict a major riot was a friend of mine who happens to hail from the wee North - in retrospect I should have realised that he had his finger on the pulse, for not only does he have much more experience of sectarian marches, but through his job he knows many of the people who were involved and has an unusual insight and sympathy for those people who most Dubliners write off as 'scumbags' and 'knackers'. This article is an analysis of what happened and why almost everybody got it so wrong. This article is a companion piece to the photo essay which I published yesterday.

I have a lot of experience of protesting and policing, having attended many of the most hyped and heavily policed events that Dublin has seen in the last decade as well as some of the biggest and most volatile international protests that have occurred around the world, both as a participant and a cameraman. From this it is obvious to me that the police were similarly completely surprised by the events of Saturday February 25th in central Dublin.

I also know that the Gardai are more than capable of policing contentious and potentially volatile protests in what would be regarded as a way that is in line with international policing norms. I was there on the Navan road when 3,000 anti-capitalist protestors made the march to Farmleigh on Mayday 2004. On that day there were thousands of police deployed and although the protestors managed to get much closer to the location of the summit than the police would have liked, the state was never in any danger of losing control of the situation. They had deployed thousands of police in riot gear, backed up by water cannon and a massive deployment of surveillance technology and they successfully contained the protestors much as their international colleagues routinely do. Therefore, I do not think that it is conceivable that the complete under-preparedness of the gardai could possibly be a result of incompetence in terms of their ability to police events - they have proved very successful at containing much bigger protests in the past....

There have been some suggestions that our power-crazed minister for justice or other sinister forces within the 26 country state may have deliberately failed to prepare adequately to police this event in order to further some security or anti-republican agenda. While I'm sure the minister for justice would love to have the power to do this, I'm also certain that he doesn't and that this theory is entirely implausible. Gardai are generally not happy to be sent out under prepared to face rioters and if there had been any inkling that a riot was likely to ensue, the guards would have been extremely unwilling - to say the least - to be used as target practice in such a scheme, pawns in the minister's power game. As it is the gardai on the ground were extremely angry and remain so that they were sent out to police a situation without anything like the resources that they would have needed to contain the situation. Furthermore, I talked to the Superintendent who appeared to be in charge of operations on the day and several ordinary gardai and they all expressed the same opinion - that they had anticipated some 'trouble' but nothing like the rioting that happened and while it is a foolish person who believes anything just because the Gardai say it is so (I remember the stream of lies and smears that the Garda press office came out with in the run up to Mayday 2004) - these reactions seemed genuine and unscripted.

Therefore, I think it is clear that the guards were genuinely taken completely by surprise by the events of the day and I think that the reasons for them being surprised were exactly the same as the reasons that I and almost all of the other political activists whom I know were similarly taken by surprise.

Continued...

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