Vigils held around the country in memory of George Nkencho

Vigils held around the country in memory of George Nkencho

Protesters walk to Pearse Street Garda Station in Dublin for George Nkencho, who was shot multiple times by gardaí outside his home in Clonee, west Dublin, on Wednesday.

Low-key candlelit vigils have been held around the country in remembrance of George Nkencho, the 27-year-old black man shot dead by armed gardaí on Wednesday.

Events were held on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, on Galway’s Eyre Square and in Waterford city, not in protest, but to remember a life, according to one speaker in Dublin.

The Dublin meeting attracted in the region of 100 people of multiple ethnicities and groups, and had been organised following a mass online meeting of community groups late on Wednesday evening.

Those present arrived sporadically after 3pm, before a ‘Black Lives Matter’ placard was placed at the base of the Spire. Anyone who wished to speak was invited to do so.

Social distancing was loosely applied, though less so at the head of the vigil. Everyone present was masked. Stewards in high-visibility jackets passed around lit tea lights for all in attendance.

Evelyn Osunde and Maureen Uto, both from Clonee, at a protest over the shooting of  George Nkencho, at Blanchardstown Garda Station, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Evelyn Osunde and Maureen Uto, both from Clonee, at a protest over the shooting of  George Nkencho, at Blanchardstown Garda Station, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

A legal observer, also clad in a high-vis, stood nearby taking notes. A slightly heightened Garda presence was visible from a distance, though the vigil passed without incident.

“The system is broken, the police in Ireland are not structured to respect our community,” said one young woman. She raised the subject of direct provision, saying of the State: “They don’t care about us.” 

“The police are not going to protect us, so we have to protect ourselves.”

An older woman spoke of having “cried all night” in the wake of the shooting.

“This is the first case of this, and we have to stop it. What are we to tell our children? Are you going back to Africa tomorrow?” she asked the crowd, to a resounding “No” in response.

“How are our children going to live in this country if they are treated in this manner?” she said, adding that she was “calling on all mothers to protest this”.

The woman declined to give her name when asked, saying “I spoke as a mother – every mother should feel the same about this”.

Another man addressed the crowd saying he had been in Ireland for more than 20 years. “This is the first time. We don’t want this to happen again. Ireland is a peaceful country,” he said.

Members of the public at a protest over the shooting of George Nkencho gather outside Blanchardstown Garda Station, Dublin. Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Members of the public at a protest over the shooting of George Nkencho gather outside Blanchardstown Garda Station, Dublin. Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Afterwards, the crowd moved in unison across the Liffey before chanting outside the doors of Pearse Street Garda Station.

Meanwhile, a number of young people from the Youth Initiative Against Racism at the Cork Migrant Centre have released a statement sending “deepest condolences” to the Nkencho family.

They called on the gardaí “to commit to actions to rebuild trust amongst young people especially those from a migrant background”.

“Many of us call Ireland our home. We would like to think that racism is not tolerated here,” they said, adding their disappointment at the “derogatory language” used in this case.

“The word ‘thug’ is not a synonym for ‘black’.”

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