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23rd Nov 2023

Siobhan Kearney was everything good about Dublin, on a night of national embarrassment

Patrick McCarry

Siobhan Kearney

“We’re not savages in this country.”

Siobhan Kearney was taking a break from attending an enquiry into a fire that killed her 18-year-old brother and 47 others. On November 22nd, her actions would have made her late brother proud.

Kearney had been attending the long-running inquests into the Stardust nightclub fire that, in 1981, took her brother, Liam Dunne, many more, left more than 200 injured and left a country reeling. Siobhan Kearney has seen enough heartache and grief to last a life-time but she still had the humanity and bravery to put the safety of others ahead of her own when it really counted.

Kearney was one of three people that rushed over to wrestle a knife-wielding man in his 50s to the ground, and unarm him. The man had stabbed three young children and a carer outside Gaelscoil Coláiste Mhuire on Parnell Square East, around 1:40pm. It was an attack that left two people, one a five-year-old child, severely wounded and was described by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee as “brutal”.

On a day, and night, when Dublin was besieged with mindless yobs and people whipped up to an anti-immigrant frenzy, the selfless actions of Kearney, the carer from that gaelscoil and others that rushed over to prevent further carnage need to be highlighted.

Siobhan KearneyTwo young girls eat ice creams as Garda Press Office Superintendent Liam Geraghty speaks to media outside Mountjoy Garda Station, after a serious incident on Parnell Square East. A male attacked a number of people on Parnell Square East, with five casualties taken to hospitals in the Dublin Region. (Photograph: Sasko Lazarov / ©

Siobhan Kearney on scenes during knife attack

“Without thinking,” Siobhan Kearney told RTÉ, “I just took across the road to help out. We got another young man, disarmed him [the attacker] with the knife, another man took the knife and put it away for the garda to find it.

“Two children and the woman were taken back into the school where they were coming from. It was absolutely bedlam.”

As if that was not enough, Kearney and an American tourist then put themselves in harms way, again, when they stopped several irate people from setting upon the attacker and doing serious damage. She told those looking for instant retribution:

We’re not savages in this country… let the Gardaí do their duty.”

Shocking stabbing used as an excuse to burn and loot

The following days will focus on that grim, disgusting attack on young children, in broad daylight, on the streets of our capital city. It will also be about the riots, looting, attacks on the gardaí, public transport being burnt out and yobbish yells of ‘Close the borders’ and ‘Immigrants out’.

This entire day is a black mark on this country. One feels for any person of colour in Dublin city centre during the madness that took hold. We are a nation that has travelled beyond our borders for centuries, now. Many of us know what it is like to be the outsider in a foreign land.

In recent years, as this country prospered, we have welcomed immigrants that have fled from some truly atrocious conditions, and situations. We have seen, though, this riding sentiment of distrust and anger about immigrants in this country. On this day, a minority but a sizeable number still, reacted to the shocking Dublin stabbing and used it as an excuse to set the capital city alight.

To see a Dublin Bus vehicle in flames with black painting exclaiming ‘OUT!’ on the back, as it smouldered and shuddered, is just one of many sights that was so bleak and so depressing.

It was an embarrassing, too. Anyone that took advantage of that shocking stabbing and used it as an excuse to attack the gardaí, burn vehicles, loot shops or scar Dublin city is an lowly, cowardly, embarrassment.

Siobhan Kearney and those heroes, from earlier in the day, did their part, and more. One of the others that intervened was Caio Benicio, a Deliveroo driver from Brazil.

It was a shame Kearney’s words about this country not being a place for savages lasted only a few tenuous hours.

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