Dublin burns: Riots in Dublin
IRA supporters riot over parade
Sun, February 26, 2006
The protesters clashed with police while trying to stop a Protestant march in Dublin. By AP
DUBLIN -- Several hundred Irish Republican Army supporters attacked police on Dublin's central boulevard and near the parliament building yesterday to prevent an unprecedented parade by Northern Ireland Protestants.
Protesters hurled bottles, bricks and fireworks at police as they tried to clear the hostile crowd from O'Connell Street.
The Garda Siochana, Ireland's national police force, said 14 people -- six officers, seven protesters and a journalist -- were taken to hospital, mostly with head wounds.
More than a dozen other people suffered less serious injuries.
The police advised shoppers and tourists to avoid the entire city centre, which is normally packed with pedestrian traffic on Saturdays.
Officers in full riot gear -- helmets, shields and clubs -- arrested at least 37 protesters as a police surveillance plane circled overhead.
The protesters, mostly young men covering their faces with scarves, chanted pro-IRA slogans as they waged running battles with riot police and other officers on horseback for more than an hour, forcing shops on Ireland's most famous street to close.
Afterward, O'Connell Street was littered with broken paving stones and glass from shattered shop windows.
Later, more scuffles broke out on Kildare Street near Leinster House, Ireland's parliament, and the country's national history and art museums. At least three cars were set on fire, one was flipped over, and the windows of several others were smashed as police struggled to contain the rioters.
The mayhem forced Protestant hardliners from the Love Ulster campaign to abandon their plan to parade through Dublin, which the Irish government had supported in a gesture of reconciliation.
It would have been the first parade in Dublin by pro-British Protestants since Ireland's partition into a mostly Protestant north and mostly Catholic south in 1921.
Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Protestant "unionists," who favour Northern Ireland's union with Britain, should have enjoyed freedom to demonstrate their views.
"There is absolutely no excuse for the disgraceful scenes in Dublin today," Ahern said. "It is the essence of Irish democracy and republicanism that people are allowed to express their views freely and in a peaceful manner."
Leaders of the aborted parade praised police efforts to protect them, but nonetheless handed a letter of protest to Justice Minister Michael McDowell during a meeting inside Leinster House.
Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party that represents most Catholics in Northern Ireland but is less popular south of the border, sought to distance itself from the violence.
Sean Crowe, a Sinn Fein member of parliament, said the Protestant marchers "came to Dublin today to be provocative and get a reaction. Sinn Fein urged people not to be provoked and to stay away, and the vast majority of Dubliners . . . did just that."