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30 people have been charged in Dublin after anti-immigrant riots earlier this week

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

An anti-immigrant riot tore through central Dublin this week. More than 30 people were arrested. The violence began after an assailant stabbed three children and a woman Thursday. Far-right groups blamed an immigrant for the assault. Conor Gallagher, reporter at The Irish Times newspaper, has been covering the unrest and joins us. Conor, thanks for being with us.

CONOR GALLAGHER: My pleasure.

SIMON: At this moment, what do we know about the stabbing that seems to have somehow initiated a riot?

GALLAGHER: We know that the most seriously injured victim, a 5-year-old girl who was queuing outside of this school, remains in an extremely serious condition. Two other children were stabbed. A young girl who's 6 years old received some head injuries. She seems to be recovering well. And another 5-year-old boy received more minor injuries. He's been released from hospital. There is also a woman who worked in the school. She's received quite serious injuries, but they're non-life-threatening, as I understand. And the accused man - or the suspect, rather, because he hasn't been arrested yet - he's under armed guard in hospital. He received relatively serious injuries during the - while he was being apprehended by members of the public. He is expected to be arrested in the coming days, once he is well enough, basically, to be interviewed.

SIMON: Do we know if the suspect is indeed an immigrant?

GALLAGHER: Yes. Well, the suspect is an Algerian national, we understand. He came here about 20 years ago. He's a naturalized Irish citizen. Gardai are keeping this quite close to the chest in terms of motivations. Gardai are the Irish police force. And they say they still haven't established the motivation. Now, it seems terrorism probably wasn't the motive, but we're still somewhat in the dark. And there are some indications that this man had some serious mental health problems, but we just don't know at the minute.

SIMON: How did this attack become an anti-immigrant riot in Dublin?

GALLAGHER: Well, really, really quickly, news spread on social media sites that the attack had occurred. False information also spread just as quickly that one or more of the victims had died. And then information that the attacker was a foreign national also spread. So, I mean, within 45 minutes of the attack, you had people gathering at the crime scene. And it quickly turned violent. Then there was calls for more people to come into the city center. So you just had people streaming in.

And what started as kind of a core group of maybe a hundred far-right and anti-immigrant protesters, they were soon joined by a more opportunistic cohort who didn't really have any political affiliation but were just intent on causing trouble, doing some looting, attacking the police, you know, with the little chance of being caught. And that's when the worst violence occurred. That's when we saw public transport being set alight. We saw gardai cars being broken into and burned, gardai being assaulted. And then of course, the stores being looted.

SIMON: We want to play what the prime minister of Ireland said yesterday when he forcefully condemned the rioters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER LEO VARADKAR: These criminals did not do what they did because they love Ireland. They did not do what they did because they wanted to protect Irish people. They did so because they are filled with hate. They love violence, they love chaos, and they love causing pain to others.

SIMON: Mr. Gallagher, has there been much anti-immigrant violence before this time?

GALLAGHER: It has been ramping up, unfortunately. Ireland has never had the far-right really as a strong political force. But in recent years, we've had huge increases in the number of asylum-seekers seeking refugee status in Ireland. And then with the war in Ukraine, we have granted refugee status to a huge number of Ukrainians - I think just coming up on 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war. And that has created huge pressure on housing. There has been tensions in local communities where they've had to open these kind of immigration residential centers on very short notice, upsetting the community. And that has created some flashpoints. We had a violent protest outside Leinster House, which is where the Houses of Parliament sit, in September on the first day of term. You had a migrant camp being burnt down in the city center a few months before that. So there is some sort of sense that we had been building up to something, yes.

SIMON: Conor Gallagher of The Irish Times, thanks so much for being with us.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LANTERNA'S "B MINOR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.