34 arrested in night of violence following stabbing attack outside Catholic school in Dublin

DUBLIN (OSV News) -- Irish police blame what they describe as a "lunatic, hooligan faction driven by far-right ideology" for a night of violence in Dublin that saw officers attacked, stores looted and public buses set on fire.

The dramatic scenes, which led to several officers being injured, 34 people being arrested and 13 shops looted, followed a stabbing attack outside a Catholic school that left three children and a teacher injured.

One of the children, age 5, remained in a serious condition in the hospital while the teacher underwent surgery overnight and was said to be improving, but was still in a serious condition. She has been praised as a hero after she stepped in to try to protect the children.

Bystanders also reacted. A delivery driver, Caio Benicio, originally from Brazil, said he jumped off his moped and smashed the attacker to the ground using his helmet, helping to end the bloodbath, the Independent reported.

The Garda Síochána, Ireland's National Police, said the alleged assailant also was hospitalized and while he has not yet been arrested, he is described as a "person of interest." Earlier reports said he had been arrested.

Anger soon spread in Dublin and anti-immigrant groups used social media to encourage protests as rumors spread that the alleged attacker was an Irish citizen of North African origin.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris at a press conference Nov. 24 condemned the violence."We have seen a group of people that take literally a thimble full of facts and make hateful assumptions and then conduct themselves in a way which is riotous," he said.

Police expect there will be further such protests following the events last night.

The stabbing incident happened outside the Irish language-speaking school called Cólaiste Mhuire, which means St. Mary's College.

The school falls within the parish boundaries of St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral and Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin expressed shock at the school attack.

"It was with utter disbelief that I heard the news of the horrific attack," he said in a Nov. 23 statement.

"An attack like this outside a school, involving innocent victims including children, is particularly distressing. There is no way to escape the pain and suffering it has brought to so many people. We do not expect events like this to happen so close to home," the archbishop wrote.

"I am praying for the injured and their families and all those affected today. I invite the people of Dublin to join me in praying especially for the recovery of those who have been injured," Archbishop Farrell said.

The school also is just 1,300 feet from the nearby Dominican priory of St. Saviour's. Dominican Father Conor McDonough, who is based at the priory which serves as the student house of formation for the Irish province of the Order of Preachers, said the protests cannot be reduced to simple narratives.

He has ministered in the area for 15 years. "It’s all very difficult to process," he said. "But what's clear to me is that none of today’s events are reducible to simple ideological explanations," the friar stressed.

"When I hear people shout 'close the borders,' I think of the immigrants I know, who are committed to the common good of this city, who are hard-working, who volunteer to care for Dublin's homeless, who pray in our church, who love this country," he said.

"When I hear people label the rioters 'far-right,' I think of the young people I know here, many of whom were surely on the streets. I think of their despair, their frustration, their anxiety, their habitual escapism through drugs and momentary thrills," Father McDonough told OSV News.

"Above all I can’t stop thinking about the children from the gaelscoil (an Irish language-school in Ireland), who experienced terrible, traumatizing fear today. Our church is where they come to pray. It's where they make their first Communions and where they’re confirmed."

In a moving exchange, he added that "in our church -- in their church -- accompanied by the sound of sirens, we prayed for them, for the emergency services, for the people of our parish, old and new, for justice, and for peace."

- - - Michael Kelly writes for OSV News from Dublin.