Anti-Garda feelings contributed to violence, say locals

Reaction on the ground: People who live and work in the north inner city say tensions between youths and gardaí played a part in the escalation of violence. By John ByrneCommunity workers and businesses around the O'Connell St area of Dublin say that anger towards the Garda was critical to the escalation of violence that happened in Dublin on 25 February.
One barman just off O'Connell St witnessed the violence that surrounded the Love Ulster march.
“It seemed to me not to be a political thing once the trouble started – it was an excuse for young guys to have a go at the police. The Orange march provided them with a reason to gather on O'Connell St, and the police provided them with a target. Most of the anger seemed to be aimed at them,” he said.
He did not notice many local youths involved in the riots. “I would recognise a lot of the young guys from around here, and I didn't see any of them causing any of the trouble. I would know most of the Sinn Féin people too and there were none of them about. I think a lot of them were guys [causing the trouble] from out of town.”
The suspicion that many of the rioters were not from the inner city was backed up by local councillor Mick Rafferty.
“I haven't heard much about local people being involved. There were reports of a couple of homeless people doing some of the looting who'd be known around the area, and a few young guys from around the place. The thing is, a lot of the lads around here are well-known to the Garda and wouldn't be stupid enough to be spotted smashing up the place in broad daylight like that.”
There was evidence that some spent time gathering projectiles in anticipation of the Love Ulster parade. The manager of the Oval Bar on Abbey St, just off O'Connell St, spotted a number of youths bringing shopping trollies filled with projectiles onto O'Connell St in the build-up to the face-off.  
Declan Glynn said: “At around half eleven you could see it building up. They were bringing trollies up the lane there (an alleyway just opposite The Oval), full of rocks, bottles and bits of wood. The fellas who were bringing up the trollies were about ten, 12 years of age.  I saw at least ten trollies being brought out, and then there was more too – wood and bottles, all from down that lane. The trouble-makers ranged from kids of about eight right up to 40 years of age.”
Alienation vs sectarianism
Father Peter McVerry, who works with homeless boys in the north inner city, said that relations between the Garda and local youths are poor, and this is crucial to understanding what happened.
“In general, relations between the gardaí and young people around the north inner city are very bad. The alienation felt by young people towards the police has been exacerbated recently by the death of Terence Wheelock. Terence Wheelock died in a Garda cell, and lots of young people in this area think he was killed by gardaí, that there is a cover-up going on.
“The Garda say that Terence took his own life, but his family say that there was no indication that he was unhappy in the run-up to his death.
“Also, the fact that the gardaí did not return his clothes so that the Wheelock family could carry out their own forensic examination, and the fact that the cell in which Terence died was renovated shortly afterwards, has fueled the widespread belief that something was being covered up.
“These tensions manifest themselves through five year olds throwing bricks at gardaí in the area and verbally abusing them. In return, I often hear reports of gardaí abusing young people around here, both verbally and physically. The situation feeds into itself. This is not a law and order issue, it's a social issue – a question of education, of resources for young people.”
But Mick Rafferty believes that the sectarian element present during the protest cannot be ignored.
“There is alienation among the young people with the cops, they're always getting pushed around. But the looting and violence was opportunistic. I don't think political groups organised the violence, but you cannot ignore the sectarian feelings that a lot of those yobs have. I disagree with Peter McVerry that the alienation of the young people explains what happened.”