Just another Day in Dublin
I knew yesterday was going to be an odd day when I couldn’t find two matching socks. I thought of wearing one black and one white but was saved from such a fashion faux-pas when, at the back of the hot press, a repressed sock decided it wanted its day out with its buddy.
I headed up to O’Connell street to buy my papers. There was the usual Saturday buzz of every nationality but given an extra twist at the Welsh rugby crowd where in town for the six nations rugby game . There was one big, big Scots man, strolling past Clearys wearing his kilt, knee high socks, white leather shoes with Scots flags on them, and a red blow-up plastic cowboy hat. And if that wasn’t enough, a black shirt carrying the words, “Brains”. Okey, and two old dears just giggled at him as they pushed their trollies. It was a just so silly, one of those daft days in Dublin. The Welsh, my favourite of the rugby crowd, they are the only people I know who when drunk, sing hymns and in harmony. Big, friendly people with yellow daffadoils . A colourful day. And I wanted a photo of a staunch Orangeman, waving a lilly outside the GPO so I took up my place at 12.30, when the parade was due to begin.
I leaned against one bus stop and chatted with a Indian lady who has come to be a psychiatric nurse. She likes it here as she thinks it’s quite but Dublin is very expensive. Tell me about it. Down the street, it became obvious there was trouble. I was trying to explain to the nurse the cause of the problem and she said, “Oh, like India and Pakistan”. Guess so. A English couple passed by saying they were up by the Parnell monument and the crowd was getting nasty. Black garbed, masked people shouting Real IRA and contuinity IRA slogans, line the side street, bangers and flares were being thrown into the crowd. Like most people, we had wanted to see the parade. Get the photo and boy, what photos,where on offer that day. Like most people we wanted to parade to pass quickly and quietly. Ignore them, just be another weird and wonderful day in Dublin. Well I guess it was.
By two o’clock, I was still at the GPO. Garda vans started to arrive, and a plane started to circle, taking pictures? Where was the Garda helicopter. No Garda on the roofs of the buildings, all on the ground, in the mill of the chaos. You could hear the clash of the riot squads shields and every now and then a rush of the crowd up the street. By this stage my arse was frozen from being press up against Jim Larkin.
Finally the crowd, rioters and Garda got the the base of the The Spire There road works barriers where thrown across the street, loose stones were flying through the air. I stood my ground. The the charge came. First the rush of track-suited young fellas, having a laugh at the fired up garda. Then the adults, some one mobile phones, others shouting across at each other, this was organised in part. Some came and sat down on the middle street, this was going to be their peaceful protest. A sit-in. Then the wave of black garbed riot squad. Each eyeing a target in the rushing wave of people. They swept both sides of the Jim Larkin statue and just beyond. Clearys had long shuttered their doors. Well, I guess they were burnt out during the Rising so knew better than most. The rioters took up a stand beside Pennys who scrambled to down their shutters. All along O’Connell street people were being locked into shops and restaurants. One check out girl in Dunnes of North Earl street said that during the main chaos they stayed open. Just off O’Connell street, by the Spire, the check-out girls sit with their backs to plate glass windows, that doesn’t even have shutters. Yet, they stayed there because God forbid, Dunnes would loose a few Euros, never mind the workers.
Back at the Jim Larkin statue, I sheltered along with the press core from the rocks, iron bars, bottles and even wheelbarrow being thrown. I was a determined blogger and this was like a 101 in journalism as we all huddled together wondering where this was going. A peaceful protest had turned into a riot. The Orangemen were on the buses and on their way home. So it was just a riot for the sake of a riot. I asked one journalist how does this end? He said usually with a water cannon. However, we don’t have one, that’s up North. At this stage it got ridiculous. We even cracked two jokes. One, “how many does it take to change a light bulb during the Dublin Riot?” Don’t know? Then you weren’t there!”. Okey, it was a surreal moment. Then a head Garda comes and tells ups to move for paramedics to hid there. Okey, I had seen enough and walked back towards the Spire and Henry street. One land was still sitting down all along in protest, on his mobile phone. There was lots of mobile phones in the air that day, a great day for the photo camera.
I walked down Henry street. Still had the normal Saturday buzz. The Gardai were nervous and excitable. One old man was protesting at not being let walk on his own streets and shouted at the Gardai, “which side are you on”. One older garda who should have know better, yelled “behind the barrier” but he look shaken and aggressive. The mood was bad.
Down Henry street, there were two tables set up by the Socialists. One where you so could sign for Rights for immigrant workers another to protest against Bush and the Americans using Shannon as a stop off for military flights. One you Socialist should for people to come and sign, and his female comrade laughed and said, “you sound just like street seller from Moore street “. This was a Socialist. It was one of those odd ball days in Dublin. A riot up the street and the political activists blissfully unaware, they had mush more serious issues than local politics. No wonder Jim Larkin throws up his hands, facing the rioters who were rioting against nothing at that stage. Just stone throwing for the heck of it.
Later, I heard about the burning of the cars in Leinster house. Now it doesn’t take a genius to guess that the hot spots were going to be be beside the GPO and near Lenister House. I said so in by earlier Love Ulster blog that these would be interesting for the historical juxtapositioning of it all. for the But the Garda were taken totally by surprise and undermanned these spots.
I stopped for a few pints. People came in and told their stories, shared their photos. As one guy said, “what do you expect when you start an Orange Order march within a stones throw (literally) of the Sinn Fein’s office on Parnell square. And then march them through a building site, past the GPO.” What were the Gardai thinking? What was their Minister, McDowell up to? How could he be so politically naive? Oh that’s right, he has feck all experience, this is his first time in the Dail and is only there because he’s a PD. The three seater party who holds the Government in power.
One Belfast guy was shaken, it brought back memories. He had come South to forget it all and now there was a riot in Dublin. He muttered only in Ireland could a peaceful march for victims turn into a riot. Well maybe, he was shaken. Then there was a rush of gardai past the door chasing a group of young track-suited teenage boys who ran like whippets laughing joyfully, enjoying the chase. The gardai stopped. They were once again, two or three out on their own. They returned and regrouped at Capel street bridge. And did a shielded march across the bridge, past shoppers and auld ones and then stopped. What were they marching on? The kids had dispersed. It was over. Arrests were made of looters of a shoe shop on O’Connell street. Not the high end Clarkes shop but the Foot Locker, they were after trainers. And two of the pople charged were non-nationals who had no interest in the politics of the suitation, they just wanting free shoes. A day of contadictions. Just another day in Dublin with all sorts of cultures coming together in their own weird way.
Now the clean up begins. I will listen to politician bliter on the radio, tying to coverup this great cock-up. The ruby match is on at 3pm, so that will be a bit of craic. Yesterday, the Welsh were wondering was all the police for them. No we said, the riot was just to intimidate you, we’ll beat the crap out of you in the game. They laughed. We laughed, it’s just another day in dull old dirty Dublin.
P.S. Ireland just won 31 to Wales 5.