Deirdre Reynolds: ‘Do you get the feeling you’re being lied to about Dublin being safe?’

We have now entered the realm of state-sponsored gaslighting.

Rioters on the streets near Parnell Square. Photo: Mark Condren

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath

Riot officers face down demonstrators next to a burning garda car near Parnell Square in Dublin. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Deirdre Reynolds

When I penned this opinion piece (below) after the vile attack on a US tourist in Dublin in July, I hoped - against hope - it would prove an anomaly.

As we watched our capital city go up in flames last night, following the horrific stabbing of innocent school children and a creche worker earlier in the day, it sadly rang even truer four months on.

No matter how much you love or feel loyal to Dublin, the simmering deterioration of parts of the inner city in recent years has now undeniably reached boiling point.

Still, our Justice Minister says - with all the bravura of someone who likely hasn't braved O'Connell Street without security since taking up office in 2020 - "this is not something we see normally".

So again, I ask…

Rioters on the streets near Parnell Square. Photo: Mark Condren

Published in July 2023:

Do you ever get the sneaking feeling you’re being lied to?

I did on Friday, when Justice Minister Helen McEntee stood in Store Street Garda Station, and declared that: “Dublin is a safe city.”

She was speaking to reporters after American tourist Stephen Termini (57) was left fighting for his life after a savage assault by a gang of youths just metres away from the station the previous night.

So how on earth did she keep a poker face as she continued that despite “problems”: “I do think our city is safe… whether you’re living here, working here or whether you’re a tourist here.”

Joining her in attempting to convince us all that chalk is cheese and black is white, after just the latest unprovoked attack to hit headlines, was Dublin Central TD Paschal Donohoe, who described it as “a very vibrant and very safe capital city.”

It’s official: we have now entered the realm of state-sponsored gaslighting.

In recent years, there has been a lot of debate over the perceived decline of the Big Smoke post-lockdown. Emotions run high on both sides, as the reality of overflowing bins and crippling house prices is balanced against the nostalgia of the warmth of its people and lively arts scene.

True blue or Dublin defector, male or female, young or old though, no one could argue that it’s possible to confidently stroll down O’Connell or Talbot Street alone any more, day or night.

Sure, it’s easy to feel safe when you’re standing in a garda station with your own security detail nearby. For the rest of us, including me and my Sunday World colleagues, who live or work in the area and navigate the maze of day-drinking, open drug use and anti-social behaviour on a daily basis, with virtually zero police presence, it’s harder not to fear that we could be next.

Even as the Ministers were trying to reassure a nervous public that new harsher penalties for assaulting causing harm and garda recruitment drive were all part of a “tough and firm response” to end “thuggery on our streets”, elsewhere in Kyiv, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was busy apologising to the victim of another random act of violence in the north inner city.

There was widespread condemnation when young actor was slashed with a glass bottle by a five-strong mob of men and women after coming out of the Abbey Theatre where he was starring in a production Translations of last month.

Oleksandr Hrekov (Photo: Matt Shanahan)

Guess what - no arrests were made, never mind charges. Will anything be different this time?

Photo ops and dizzying spin aside, in this government’s alternative reality, Gardaí - like the Tallaght officer now facing trial over the deaths of three members of a burglary gang during an N7 car chase two years ago - seem more likely to be punished for than supported in doing their jobs.

When even Dublin City Council struggles to free the streets from rubbish and urine, what hope is there for ridding them of scum of another variety.

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