What it says in the papers...
The Sunday Independent
Republicans are to blame for highly-coordinated violence
“Hardcore repub...licans spent weeks orchestrating yesterday's Dublin riots which saw 14 gardaí and civilians – including RTÉ's Charlie Bird – injured,” wrote the Sunday Independent in its front-page story covering the Dublin riots of 25 February. They cited no source for this claim and proffered no evidence. It is almost certainly untrue.
“Hundreds of highly organised republican demonstrators – including members of Sinn Féin and dissident groupings – descended on the capital, to forcibly stop a Love Ulster rally involving Orangemen and relatives of IRA murder victims,” the Sunday Independent continued. Again no evidence proffered by the newspaper that Sinn Féin members took part in the riot and no evidence that any of the disturbance was “highly organised”.
The paper said that the disturbances could not be blamed on opportunists making the most of a chaotic situation. “The Sunday Independent can reveal that the unprecedented street violence, far from being spontaneous, was well organised in advance on internet bulletin boards.” The newspaper cited no websites or internet boards. There were “middle-aged men with Bluetooth ear-pieces, coordinating the whole thing, organising the mob.” But no details as to who these men were, who they were talking to, or how they were “controlling” what was going on. Strange that the gardaí, so far, have formed no such impression. A report by Jerome Reilly in the Sunday Independent referred to “sinister puppet masters who pulled the strings of yesterday's rioters.” There was “evil in the air. The cool, calculating henchmen who organised this, were biding their time, whispering into the mobile phones, scarves pulled tightly over their faces.” Aside from the excited adjectives, there was no support for the claim there were “puppet masters” pulling any strings.
There was some speculative commentary by columnist Eoghan Harris, who referred to “republicans who used iron railings to rip into the marchers.” There was no evidence in any of the coverage of the riots to suggest that any such attack took place or that iron railings were “ripped up” anywhere – certainly the steel barricades in O'Connell St were used in the riots, but “iron railings ripped up”?
The Irish Daily Mirror
Sinn Féin organised criminal thugs to wreck Dublin
The Irish Daily Mirror were also keen to blame political groups for organising the violence, but evidence was in short supply. It had to resort to using a single, anonymous quote to back up the front-page splash on Monday 27 February. “Sinn Féin were in this up to their necks – and they brought some of the worst lowlife scum on to our streets to help wreak havoc,” said “a source.”
Like the Sunday Independent, the Mirror claimed that the disturbances were organised on the internet, but again, no websites were cited.
In an editorial comment, the Mirror said: “What happened was pure naked violence and Sinn Féin must shoulder the responsibility for this outrage. It is not enough for Gerry Adams to shrug and say it was nothing to do with him. Known Sinn Féin activists were involved in stirring up the mob, alongside the breakaway Republican Sinn Féin.”
By Tuesday 29 February, efforts to link Sinn Féin to the riots had evaporated from the Mirror's coverage. Instead, a “Shop the yobs” campaign was published, along with close-up pictures of people who attended the protest. “Tell gardaí if YOU know any of these riot thugs.”
The Irish Daily Star Sunday
‘Scum' and republicans put terror on our streets
The Star Sunday mostly blamed “hooligans” and “scum” for the violence. “O'Connell Street looked like a war zone after republicans and local thugs fought with Gardaí over a controversial loyalist parade. Terrified shoppers and tourists ran for their lives as the mob hurled missiles and bricks,” said the front page, alongside a young man offering his middle finger to the camera.
Inside, a report by Darren Boyle, Anne Campbell and Eoin Murphy differentiated between republicans and local youths. “At least 37 people were arrested after republican protesters – backed by local troublemakers – blocked the route of the Love Ulster rally in the capital.”
Like most of the Sunday newspapers, the assault on RTÉ's Charlie Bird was deemed to be one of the most significant events that happened during the course of the riots.
But the Star Sunday was one of the few to publish reports that aspects of the violence might not have been politically motivated. “Garda sources said much of the trouble was caused by Dublin thugs who hijacked the situation. A senior Garda last night said: “They came into the city centre looking for trouble and sent texts to their pals telling them to join in. They were not politically-motivated at all.”
The Sunday Times
Charlie Bird makes the news again
The Sunday Times put a different slant on the assault on Charlie Bird. Siobhan Maguire's article made fun of “RTÉ's star reporter [who had] yet again become the story,” tracing how RTÉ had publicised the attack on their journalist, and outlining other instances in which Bird had “crossed the line separating reporter from minor celebrity.”
“If there is any consolation from yesterday's injuries, it can only be that Bird will be able to catalogue the event in a chapter of his forthcoming memoirs, for which he has been paid a record €100,000 advance.”
Ireland On Sunday
Tracksuited teenagers showing their disaffection
Ireland On Sunday ran similar accounts to other papers of how the trouble unfolded, but did not claim that the violence was orchestrated by any one political group. Two of the paper's leading feature writers were sent out to mingle with both the rioters and the Love Ulster people.
Mary Carr, “who mingled with the mob confronting the Ulstermen” was one of the few Sunday writers to link the rioting to non-political, social issues: “The tracksuited teenagers, tri-colours in one hand, stones in the other, were not serving any ideology but showing their disaffection... Marginalised by the opportunities of the Celtic Tiger and by the political system, this assorted gathering of hoodlums, activists and loonies had finally found a way to protest its anger and alienation.”