Sinn Fein has accused the Irish government of employing a “water-weak defence” in stating that the escalation of disorder in Dublin city last week was unpredictable.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said that “of course there will be lessons learned and there should be”, but accused Sinn Fein of politicising the issue.

She said that she had been listening to women and gardai about safety since becoming minister, and that was why two new Garda stations had been opened while she had been at the helm of the justice portfolio.

Irish justice minister Helen McEntee during Leaders’ Questions
Justice minister Helen McEntee during Leaders’ Questions (Oireachtas TV/PA)

She also criticised Sinn Fein for waving a photo in the Irish lower house, Dail Eireann, of a person purportedly outside the school where a knife attack on children and a carer took place.

Hours after the attack on Parnell Square East in Dublin’s inner city last Thursday afternoon, angry crowds gathered at the edge of the Garda cordon in scenes that escalated as the day continued.

A five-year-old girl and her “heroic” carer remained in critical conditions in hospital after the attack, in which two other children were also injured.

During Leaders’ Questions on Wednesday, Ms McEntee and Labour leader Ivana Bacik criticised Sinn Fein for “waving” a photo in the Dail of an “identifiable” person who Sinn Fein claimed was outside the school days after the attack.

Sinn Fein’s Louise O’Reilly told Ms McEntee that the picture “represents what Dublin city feels like on your watch”.

Ms McEntee criticised the Dublin Fingal TD for her actions and accused the party of using “a tragic situation to sow division, to point score and to create instability”.

“Less than 24 hours later, with your leader standing on the edge of a (crime) scene calling for heads,” she said, referring to Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald’s call for the resignation of Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Ms McEntee.

“When I spoke to the Garda Commissioner last week, when I spoke to Garda members, I spoke to them to offer my support. When your leader rang the Garda Commissioner, it was to call for his head. When people in this country want stability, all you’re interested in is providing instability.”

The justice minister said she had been in contact with the principal of the school and said that every resource would be available to them, and that gardai were engaging with the school also.

Ms Bacik also criticised Sinn Fein: “Undoubtedly, there’s been grandstanding from opposition, including waving of a photograph of an identifiable person in this house. That’s an outrageous action.

“That’s outrageous grandstanding, and I want to call that out.”