Reading the City Centre Riots: Thoughts, Feelings and Reactions of the Dublin Community Co-op

Image of Dubliners watching a dublin bus and luas buring on O'Connell Street
Sofia Clifford Riordan
Sofia worked for Dublin City Community Co-op as Policy, Advocacy & Programmes Officer and led out on drafting advocacy papers, position statements and thematic reports. She holds a MSc in Human Rights and International Politics, from University of Glasgow and a BA Social Care, from Technological University Dublin. Prior to joining the Co-op Sofia worked as a Social Care Worker in various residential and homeless service settings.
Noel Wardick
Noel is the CEO of Dublin City Community Co-op since 2015 Noel holds a B.Comm and a Masters in Economic Science from UCD. In addition to his senior management roles Noel has considerable governance experience having served on a number of boards in the not-for-profit sector. Prior to joining the Coop Noel worked in international development and spent several years living and working in
the Horn & East Africa.”



Image of Dubliners watching as a Dublin bus burns on O'Connell Street

Dubliners watch as a Dublin Bus is engulfed in flames during the 2023 Dublin riot. Credit: CanalEnthusiast, WikimediaCommons


This essay is drawn from the direct quotes of Co-op staff4 who participated in this process.5 The aim of the essay is to allow these raw feelings and insights to speak for themselves, with a conscious decision not to over-editorialise their words. This commitment to listen to those with knowledge and “skin
in the game” is at stark odds with how the State and its institutions disregarded insights from people who had tried to warn them that the ingredients—poverty, deprivation, and inequality6—for an eruption of violence were in place. After a brief history of the Co-op, the essay will present five themes which emerged from staff’s initial reactions and conclude with what is needed by the community.


Established in November 2014, the Co-op is an alliance of 13 grassroots community development organisations, based in Dublin’s inner city, which have come together to ensure the much needed development and delivery of social, economic and cultural services continues within their communities. Its creation was prompted by the absence of a local development company in the inner city, which had resulted in Dublin’s inner city communities becoming increasingly less visible and without a voice at a time when the country was experiencing harsh austerity; the evisceration of community development funding; and an increasing demand for support services due to a State failing in its duty of care. Operating in the most disadvantaged areas of the inner city, the member organisations are present in Dublin 1, 3, 7, and 8 as well as disadvantaged areas in Dublin 2 and 4. An essential element of the work of the Co-op is with “hard-to-reach” target groups. The “hard-to-reach” are those perceived as difficult to engage due to their social circumstances, characteristics and behaviours, and their institutional relationships, such as not using healthcare or other services.


The Co-op has fifteen employees, including its Chief Executive Officer. One staff member referred to the team as a “microcosm of the population of the inner city,” which is made up of people whose families have lived in the community for generations; people who are non-Irish born but to whom Dublin is home; and those who work in the inner city and live elsewhere. Another staff member described them as a team who had been through “the horrors of the Hutch/Kinahan murder feud, the recession, the pandemic, the endless challenges caused by decades of poverty, neglect, abandonment and working in a state created ‘poverty-hub.’” Their collective experiences only add further weight and poignancy to their thoughts and feelings on the riots described below.



Naturally, emotions ran the gamut from anger to grief with everything in between. Kasia suggested that there was a qualitative difference to the events of that Thursday, compared to other crises faced by the Co-op:

“We’ve all lived through the recession, the pandemic, other historic events and still, we came through. That Thursday though, felt different. Not only that Thursday, but the days and weeks that followed.”

Eloise expressed feeling “shocked, sadness and scared of the whole situation from the stabbings to the riots” and not feeling safe anymore. This was echoed by Grace who was heartbroken that “the place I grew up in is now not safe,” to the extent that she and her family were scared to be home. Further to this, Luka added that “Ireland doesn’t feel comfortable, let alone safe, for me right now, and I am tired of speaking about my and others hurt and pain, so that I/we are afforded a little bit of humanity.” Luka also noted a numbness amid all the intense emotions:

“There is a numbness that I feel too, a numbness stemming from exhaustion, exhaustion from speaking ad nauseam, about the collective fear many ethnic minorities have and currently are expressing and experiencing right now across Ireland.”

As Orla made her way to work the day after, she felt confused and felt “despair and horror at the posts of people saying things like ‘hunt them down’, or when watching images of a lone Garda being surrounded by a lynching mob.”

As other staff reflected on the absent State in the months before, anger was added to the mix of emotions expressed by Daniel:

“I think I have been destabilised by the events like I have never been before. I know I am upset, emotional, fearful but mostly I’m in a near blind rage with the state that they have allowed our country to get this close to a dangerous precipice despite all our warnings over many many months.”

He continues:

“When the anger with the State quells mostly I’m am left with feelings of terrible sadness at what happened and especially at what drove the events of 23rd November … when one thinks of some of the phrases and slogans in common public use such as ‘Kill all Immigrants’ and ‘Let’s meet at 7 pm and go hunting for migrants’ the urge to put my head in my hands and just start crying is overwhelming.”

For many staff, their local community was at the forefront of their minds. Having also attended the school where the attack happened, Mark noted that:

“It felt very surreal for me not only being from the north inner city but also having attended Gaelscoil Coláiste Mhuire as a student, and currently having siblings there. I’ve seen similar events happen abroad in the UK or US, but never would I have ever thought an attack like that could happen in Ireland, let alone in Dublin on my doorstep.”

Expressing deep concern for the children and parents involved in the school stabbing, Amelia lamented that this event was used as a catalyst “to wreak havoc and division on our community – saddened, disappointed, and disgusted me but unfortunately did not shock me.”



Eruptions of violence to this scale and ferocity do not happen in a vacuum. They have foundations laid well in advance. Thinking of the months and weeks leading up to the riot, Orla pinpointed “older men who are weaponising this tragic situation to serve their own malevolent ends.” Amelia recounted a change in the local atmosphere, noting that something had irrevocably changed:

“Two weeks before the riots that took place in Dublin city, I had walked down to the llac Centre7 around lunch time as I often have done a million times before this being the community that I grew up in. I have never felt afraid or uneasy in my community. I remember remarking on my return to the office that I had witnessed three separate incidents on this short walk that for me reflected the undercurrent of tension and uneasiness that was palpable in the air.”

Broadening the focus to the An Garda Síochána, Daniel expressed both severe disappointment and praise for the police force:

“The shocking lack of preparedness by senior Gardaí and their failure to see this coming is something I honestly cannot fathom. We knew it was coming, how could they not know? I have such admiration for the brave Gardaí who faced down the rioters on the night of the 23rd November but the fact that they were so exposed and let down by their leadership is terrifying.”

Daniel continued:

“Not only were the riot organisers ‘hunting’ for immigrants they were also ‘hunting’ for Gardaí and Garda vehicles … terrified doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings watching the events unfold. Despite individual Garda bravery and courage on the night of the riots the institution of the Gardaí suffered a humiliating defeat, and the Far Right is now emboldened beyond belief … does the government have any idea how scared this makes people feel?”

Other staff explained the antecedents to the riot in terms of the failure of the incumbent and past Governments. Peter was unequivocal that it is ultimately due to “the consistent failure of successive Irish Governments to tackle wider social issues in the country, such as health and housing.” He expanded on his point:

“It beggars belief that this came as a shock to some political quarters. You would have to be very naïve to think there would be no repercussions as a result of concentrating people from a myriad of cultural backgrounds, a lot of who are coming from regions of serious conflict and highly traumatised, in an area which is already dealing with disadvantage and poverty, without sufficient mental and physical health supports. The existing communities were already trying to navigate a system which is under extreme pressure to deliver services.”

Taking a slightly different tack, by reflecting on her own heartbreak and how to navigate it, Orla arrives at the same conclusion of State abandonment over generations. Describing how she sought solace in the aftermath, Orla explains:

“I went for a walk and called one of my wise women. I heard myself say ‘my heart is broken’. I tried to explore this by finding a reason why, engaging in solution finding but my wise woman told me ‘simply be heartbroken’. That was such a relief! … Allowing it gave rise to the heaviness lifting. My resisting the heartbreak was creating the heaviness. The communities we work in carry heartbreak over generations.”

Yet this abandonment is only one of the many dispositions of how the Government responds to the NEIC. When the NEIC makes the news for any reason that may reflect poorly on the Government, those who call it home are quickly “othered.”



From the staff reflections, it became clear that their anger was fuelled in part by the labelling and othering8 which Government Ministers9 and the media quickly engaged in to shift unwanted attention. Claire expressed deep anger at “the language and labels once again being associated with the North-East Inner-City and in no way a real or accurate reflection of the people that live in our community.” This fury was mirrored by Eloise as she was “angry how the situation was handled and how our city and the people of the North-East Inner-City are being labelled.” Lamenting the consequence-free opinion-making of social media, Seamus saw “social media churn out opinions relentlessly who did not know the people, the area, the context” yet he points out that the references to young thugs ended up “demonising every young person when arrests show it is the older men organising right wing groups lighting the tinder box.”

Irish media, which takes its tone from Government responses, was singled out for its destructive and hurtful bias to the communities of the north inner city. Identifying the coding which is used when different events are reported upon, Sean’s analysis was insightful:

“As for the media with their ‘othering’ and disgusting bias against the good, honest and proud people of the north inner city … when celebrations happen in town, when parades such as the Easter Rising celebrations happen in town the media reports them as taking place on O’Connell Street or in the city centre but when there is a riot or violence in the very same area they report the events as taking place ‘in the north inner city’ … and they wonder why people are angry when they have to listen to these flawed and hostile portrayals.”

Considering his personal response to this prejudicial reporting, Padraig noted that in the days following the attack and the rioting, “I felt extremely marginalised and saw prejudice from the news media and especially the government as everyone in the riot were labelled as ‘White Irish Men’ from the ‘Inner City’.” While still being in a state of shock from the events at the school which he had attended, Mark felt “a lack of care and complete disregard from the government and Ministers of Justice and Education toward myself and other victims of the school.” Another staff member, Benjamin, highlighted the cruelty of this “immediate knee-jerk response of both blaming migrants and locals for issues that are so far beyond their competencies to manage, nor should it be it for them to manage.” While the Government, Ministers, and particular media outlets sought to deflect and obfuscate any careful analysis of the riot, the Co-op staff were unambiguous with where the majority of the blame lay.



In many policy areas—whether housing, environment or health—a common refrain that is levelled at this coalition Government is its disconnection from reality on the ground. This refrain was echoed again in a very impassioned way. Peter identifies the concentration of need without commensurate resources:

“To then increase a population concentration with high needs into
a community without increasing the crucial services to support all community members, goes beyond thoughtlessness and enters the realm of ignorant dissociation with life in the real world.”

Considering the social profile of politicians, civil servants, and decision-makers, Sean picks up empathy and understanding as a cause for the disconnect:

“Most Gardaí are white, most officials are white, most politicians are white … and most are middle/upper middle class. They simply haven’t a clue what is happening under their noses … they have no idea what it’s like to be scared shitless because of how you look, speak and sound.”

For Eloise, the “situations in the community is gonna get worse if the government don’t make change, it’s a poverty trap and we are feeling like second class citizens.” While the events of that week impacted on everyone, Claire recognised that it was all “piloted by lack of knowledge, understanding, support, education, and resources.”

Many staff expressed no hope that genuine political leadership will be provided to begin to redress decades of State abandonment. When surveying the political landscape, Benjamin sees:

“a complete lack of political leadership around all the issues that face the inner city, the intergenerational issues and complexities being weaponized to give simplistic answers to issues of poverty, health, housing, employment, education, migration, and most of all the othering of the inner city like it’s a disease or contagion that might infect middle Ireland.”

Drawn from experience of politicians’ engagement with the NEIC, Orla delivers an excoriating critique:

“I feel rage at the blatant disregard of the politicians to an authentic analysis and understanding the nuance of the circumstances that actually gave rise to this situation. Disingenuousness, lack of leadership, faffing about the place, lies that they didn’t know this was coming despite numerous warnings, a refusal to think beyond their own narrow lens, their willingness to continue to point the finger, look for the quick reason and solution, wag the finger and blame people for their own understandable reactions characterise the majority of politicians I’ve heard speaking and it frustrates me, nay suffocates me – I literally feel it like a pressure on my chest and I nearly can’t cope for my own red mist”

Yet, like the many people who live in the north inner city, there is a resilience, and maybe stubbornness, to the Co-op staff which allows a fragile hope for the future to remain. But it is not a sentimental hope.



While Grace wonders whether she and her family will feel safe and welcome again, she knows that Dublin is a city worth fighting for:

“Dublin is my chosen home and I moved mountains to be here. To see the place I love most, the city my children know as home, dissolve into such chaos and rage broke our hearts. This city is a living, breathing thing and it’s unwell.”

Other staff noted how difficult it can be for families and small businesses in the NEIC. Succinctly, Eloise was saddened as it is “so tough bringing up children.” After speaking with families following the closure of the schools on the day of the attack, Benjamin feared that “a number of these families will leave and in a number of cases school was/is the only safe place they had, and this is being taken from them.” He also recognised that “local hard-working businesses like One Society cafe could lose everything after the riots while the multi-millionaire owners10 of the homeless accommodations are sitting pretty fills me with rage.”

Displaying a toughness in the face of adversity, Kasia acknowledged;

“the disappointment and despair that the Irish state has failed its own citizens and all the people that have chosen to make a better life here and to contribute to the Irish future. How do we come back from that? How do we mend the burned bridges, how do we mend the broken trust? How can one day turn one’s life on its head and leave you thinking, “is it worth it anymore”? I could leave, me and my family but then again, THIS IS ALSO MY HOME and my COUNTRY!”

While there are no easy answers, the Co-op staff were still willing to do the difficult work. For Sean, “it’s been a crushing and devastating few weeks for us, we are very shaken but I can tell you one thing we’ll never give up and never give in … the consequences of doing that are just too grave to even think about.” Recognising that the current anti-racism responses are not working, Benjamin identified the need for a “much deeper work to begin to combat it [racism] as well as seeing that all inner city residents have a stake in our society no matter what”

Not seeking the solace of easy answers, Orla wants to finally “see someone in power stand up and be willing to be accountable for it, for working towards meaningful responses without any of the pathetic excuses and guff.” Spaces for listening to each other is central for Claire, both to bring people together but to also expel the loud, destructive voices;

“The divide needs movement and change to narrow the gaps … to understand or listen to the other and the whisper of the ordinary trying to just live life day to day, communities both new and old.”



For many of us, the events of November 23rd maintained our attention for a couple
of news cycles, until our focus was inevitably drawn elsewhere. The thoughts, reactions, and feelings of the Co-op staff, from this exercise in team self-care, offer us a window into the experience of those who live, work, and care about the communities in the north inner city. Those who live in the north inner city are still dealing with the social and emotional fallout from the riots.

What comes through from the staff reflections is the deep concern that the State has not stepped outside of its narrow frame of understanding to analyse and reflect on how and why such things happened. Because things like this do not just happen. The anger and hate that drove the riots was utterly misdirected and inexcusably expressed. However, it came from somewhere and denying this fact will only fuel it more. Unaddressed social issues are the bedrock upon which extremist actors have been able to incite racism and violence against migrants. They have been able to do so because there is a vacuum of responsibility for these social issues stemming from the failure of the government to take responsibility where it is due. The far right has utilised this vacuum to push the narrative that migrants have caused Ireland’s ills which, in reality, existed prior to the influx of people seen in 2022. Arguably the most pivotal of these social issues, around which people become most impassioned, is housing.

The description of the NEIC as a “state created ‘poverty hub’” crystallised decades of Government policy into a succinct description. As disproportionate numbers of international protection applicants and refugees were placed in direct provision accommodation sites across the inner city and the number of homeless people housed in local Bed and Breakfasts grew,11 some feared that existing social issues and already stretched services would be put under increasing pressure. These social issues were not resolved, and genuine concerns were left unaddressed by the State. The far right has picked up these unaddressed concerns and hardships as an opportunity to gain support for their racist ideology. Insidiously, they framed the social and economic issues experienced as resulting from migration, igniting fear over resource scarcity, and invoking conceptions of an in-group threatened by an out-group. It must be emphasised, the far right did not by any means capture the minds of most residing in the inner city nor do they represent the views of the people therein.

However, it is crucial to understand that the government’s failure to overcome the country’s social problems has provided fertile grounds for the far right to grow their abhorrent ideology in a small but not insignificant number of those vulnerable to it. At the risk of sounding alarmist, the riots should serve as a warning about increasing polarisation, radicalisation, disorder, and violence if we fail to change course. Space is desperately needed to reflect on this day and everything that culminated in its manifestation.

1. Dismantle the “Poverty Hub” Created in the NEIC

The State needs to recognise and acknowledge that it has created (and continues to grow) a “poverty hub” in the NEIC that needs to be dismantled. A failure to do so risks dangerous and destabilising outcomes such as that witnessed on 23rd November 2023. To this end, an immediate moratorium on
homeless hubs and direct provision centres in the NEIC is needed. Communities within the NEIC readily
acknowledge their duty of care to vulnerable and marginalised people but they are being asked to bear a
disproportionate weight in relation to their collective resources. Future decisions on homeless hubs and direct provision centres need to be based on the principle of redistribution, where each community in Dublin and Ireland has a fair share in the State’s collective duty of care. Leafy suburbs with surplus resources and amenities must play their part and recognise that their dereliction of responsibility places excess pressures on other communities with much less.

2. Investment to Eliminate Inter-Generational Poverty

A determined and properly resourced investment to eliminate inter-generational poverty is needed alongside a recognition that State resources currently being provided are piecemeal, opportunistic and
massively insufficient. When a particular community has been starved of social investment for decades, the investment required to redress State failures is much larger than the initial annual investment
required, as social problems quickly become complex. Business-as-usual with tokenistic investment, for which the community is expected to feel grateful, will ensure this crushing and dehumanising poverty will endure for further generations.

3. Eradicate the “Drugs Industry”
Contained Within the NEIC

Until the “drugs industry,” which is embedded and endemic in the area, is eradicated, the NEIC will continue to be plagued by crime, social disadvantage, violence and high levels of individual
and community trauma. A three-step approach is proposed:
• Remove the open drug-dealing from the streets as this is terrifying for a local community to navigate when going to schools and shops. If it can be removed from O’Connell Street and business districts, then it is possible for the residential streets where people live;

• Criminal justice response to the medium- and high-ranking members of the drug gangs. The focus should not be on the young lookouts and couriers who are trafficked into this industry with promises of easy wealth;

• Public health response to support those with addictions and suffering the consequences of substance use.

4. Sincere and Committed Political Leadership

Compassionate, committed, and courageous political leadership is required when addressing matters of immigration, as opposed to reactionary soundbites and policies based on little or no analysis and underpinned by a desire to garner votes and win “popularity.”

5. Create a Brave Space

This concept refers to a supportive place where people are enabled to share honestly and equally to facilitate individual and collective learning, facilitated by racial justice trainers.12 The concepts of sharing, listening, and understanding are easily comprehensible by the intellect and easily professed but much less often practised. In essence a brave space is a supportive environment where participants are
encouraged to speak openly and critically from their own experience toward the end of mutual learning and liberation. The term was originally proposed back in 2013 by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens in
the context of social justice education.13 While creating a safe space has been the focus for a long time, we are now calling on policy makers, political leaders, community activists and organisations to
create “brave spaces.”14

NEIC need Leaders who will:Dismantle the 'Poverty Hub' Investment to eliminate Inter- Generational Poverty Eradicate the 'Drugs Industry' Contained Within the NEIC SIncere and Committed Political Leadership Create a Brave Space

Figure 1: Five asks of politicians in the upcoming Local Elections14


1 Kitty Holland, ‘Dublin Stabbing: How the Chaos Unfolded on Parnell Square’, The Irish Times, 23 November 2023,
2 Conor Lally et al., ‘Dublin Riots: Violent Clashes with Gardaí and Vehicles Set Alight after Children Injured in Knife Attack’, The Irish Times, 23 November 2023,
3 ‘Dublin City Community Co-Op – An Alliance of Dublin Inner City Community Development Organisations’, accessed 9 April 2024,
4 All staff members have been given pseudonyms.
5 The original report is available on the Co-op website. See Sofia CliffordRiordan and Noel Wardick, ‘Events of 23rd November 2023-Dublin City Centre-Compilation of Staff Thoughts, Reactions and Feelings’ (Dublin City Community Co-op, 2023),
6 Robert Sweeney, ‘The State We Are In: Inequality in Ireland 2023’ (TASC, 2023),
7 A shopping centre between Parnell Street, Henry Street and Moore Street.
8 Othering is based on “the conscious or unconscious assumption that a certain identified group poses a threat to the favoured group. It is largely driven by politicians and the media, as opposed to personal contact. Overwhelmingly, people don’t “know” those that they are Othering.” See Peter A Powell, ‘Us vs Them: The Sinister Techniques of “Othering”– and How to Avoid Them’, The Guardian, 11 August 2017,
9 During a Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) debate following the riots, the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, labelled those involved in the violence as “scumbags” and “thugs.” When challenged by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, the Minister refused to apologise for her choice words, instead saying that they accurately reflected the images she saw on 23rd November. At the time of writing, “Scumbags” remains on the public record of Dáil Éireann. See Tim O’Brien, ‘Dublin Riots: Helen McEntee Refuses to Withdraw Use of Term “Scumbag”’, The Irish Times, 12 July 2023,
10 Cormac Fitzgerald, ‘The Firm behind Ireland’s Largest Homeless Family Hub Was Previously Paid Millions to Run a Direct Provision Centre’,, 2 May 2018,
11 Patrick Freyne and Jack Power, ‘“The Most Disadvantaged Neighbourhood in Ireland”: The Dublin Street Providing Housing for Many of the City’s Homeless’, The Irish Times,
12 February 2023,
13 Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens, ‘From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces: A New Way to Frame Dialogue  Around Diversity and Social Justice’, in The Art of Effective Facilitation, ed. Lisa M. Landreman, 1st edition (New York: Routledge, 2013), 135–50.
14 Local and European elections are taking place on the 7th June 2024. The Dublin Inquirer developed a Local ElectionsVoter Guide to help residents in Dublin identify and contact their local candidates. For more information see: