Addressing Nation, Irish Leader Spends Seconds Condemning Stabbing of Children but Minutes on Protests That Followed

The Irish Prime Minister addressed the nation on Friday morning after a night of fiery protests in Dublin in reaction to a mass stabbing against schoolchildren, but the leader had much more to say about violence against the state than violence against children.

Leo Varadkar spoke about “two terrible attacks” that took place on Thursday, one “on innocent children” and the other “on our society and the rule of law”. Speaking for almost six minutes, the Irish progressive-centrist Fine Gael politician spent 42 seconds condemning the man who had loitered outside a school before launching a knife attack the previous day, and then four minutes and 20 seconds unloading on those who came out to riot over the attack that evening.

Calling the multiple stabbings a “horrifying act of violence”, Varadkar spent most of those 42 seconds narrative building, praising those who had stepped in to try and stop the violence, and praising those who work in the Irish health service.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, seen on the screen of a camera speaking at the British-Irish Council at Dublin Castle, condemned the violence in Dublin City Centre on Thursday night. Picture date: Friday November 24, 2023. (Photo by Gráinne Ní Aodha/PA Images via Getty Images)

Following up with the considerably longer part of his speech on the protests and riots that followed, the Prime Minister noted: “yesterday evening some people decided the best way to respond to this terrible attack would be to take to the streets of Dublin to try to terrify, intimidate, loot and destroy. Their first reaction to a five-year-old child being stabbed was to burn our city, attack its businesses, and assault our [police].”

Those who protested and rioted, Varadkar said, had “brought shame on Dublin, shame on Ireland, and shame on their families and themselves”, and were not real patriots. They are people, he said, who are filled with hate, who “love violence, love chaos, and love causing pain to others”. Varadkar did not take time to speculate whether those who stab children might love any of those things also, however.

34 were arrested on Thursday night and Irish media claimed the protests were the most intensive seen in Dublin for years. Vehicles including a police car, busses and trams were burnt and shops were looted. One police officer was seriously injured in the violence that followed the multiple stabbing on Parnell Street allegedly by a suspect, it was reported, by a man in his late 40s who has gained Irish citizenship in the past.

There were protests again on Friday night but not on the same scale as the previous evening.

Police say they are exploring all possible motivations and had considered a terrorism angle, but now say they understand the suspect was “highly agitated” over an unspecified “grievance” which led him to attack children leaving a local school, and a teacher who used her body to shield the pupils from his assault. One child and the teacher remain in critical condition.

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