Dublin riots: Conor McGregor accuses Irish officials of making him ‘scapegoat’

<span>Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA</span>
Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

The former mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor has accused Irish authorities of making him a “scapegoat” for the riot in Dublin last week amid reports police are investigating his social media posts before and during the violence.

McGregor on Wednesday accused the government of trying to deflect attention from a stabbing attack on children that triggered anti-immigrant protests and anarchy in Ireland’s capital on 23 November.

“Attempt to scapegoat me all you wish,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter. “If it makes you feel better, I will take it.”

Gardaí are investigating social media posts from various accounts to determine if they incited the mayhem that left vehicles torched, shops looted and dozens of officers injured. Police did not name the accounts but it has been reported that one belongs to McGregor.

“Ireland, we are at war,” the Dubliner posted on 22 November to 10.3 million followers in response to a report that non-nationals could vote in local elections.

Related: Large-scale arrests expected for suspected ringleaders of Dublin riot

The next day a man stabbed three children and a carer, severely injuring one of the children and the woman, outside a school on Parnell Square in central Dublin. As rumours spread that the suspect was a foreigner – he is a naturalised Irish citizen originally from Algeria – hundreds of people, some chanting anti-immigrant slogans, gathered near the scene and began to riot.

“There is grave danger among us in Ireland that should never be here in the first place,” McGregor posted as fires burned on O’Connell Street and masked youths clashed with police. “Make change or make way. Ireland for the victory.” A separate post said: “You reap what you sow.”

Police said they were investigating a large volume of commentary on social media platforms to assess any potential breaches of criminal legislation.

The Labour party’s justice spokesperson, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, condemned McGregor’s posts. “He knows what he is doing, he is not stupid and for him to say on Wednesday that ‘Ireland is at war’ to his following is incredibly irresponsible,” he told RTE on Wednesday.

The day after the riot, McGregor said he did not condone the riots, “any attacks on our first responders in their line of duty” or the looting and damaging of shops. But he said he understood people’s “frustrations” and hinted at a possible tilt into activism or politics. “A move must be made to ensure the change we need is ushered in. And fast! I am in the process of arranging,” he posted.

In a statement to the Guardian on Wednesday, McGregor said there was no place for violence and acts of hate in Ireland. “I am praying that the streets will remain calm and peaceful. We Irish are known for our beautiful hearts, and we have a proud history of not accepting racism.”

The government must act decisively, he said. “I do strongly believe our leaders must address this issue head-on with serious policy reforms regarding Ireland’s immigration and refugee processes. This is not a time for debate and posturing, our elected leaders must act in the best interest of Ireland’s citizens and our beloved country’s future.”

Elon Musk last week endorsed a McGregor run for office, posting that it was “not a bad idea”. The billionaire also assailed Ireland’s taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. “The Irish PM hates the Irish people,” he posted to 164 million followers. “The current Irish government clearly cares more about praise from woke media than their own people.” Musk also criticised a plan to widen laws to tackle incitement to hatred on social media platforms. “Suppression of the Irish people is the real crime,” he said.

The Dublin riot has become a talking point for far-right groups outside Ireland. In France, where a series of far-right marches have been held in response to the killing of a 16-year-old in the south-east of the country, the night of violence in Ireland was a “trigger” for a strong reaction, a French intelligence source told Reuters, noting there was a will among far-right activists to be “as good as the Irish”.

Messages on French far-right Telegram groups shared footage of the disturbances and hailed its participants. “Bravo to the resistance,” one message read.

On a chatshow hosted by X, the former Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson accused the Irish government of trying to replace Irish people with people from “third-world countries”. Stephen Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, replied that Ireland’s political class was very tied to the EU.

Far-right activists, a housing crisis and concern about crime have fuelled sporadic protests against immigrants and asylum seekers under the banner “Ireland is full”. A raucous demonstration in September briefly trapped lawmakers inside parliament.

Police are to receive 200 stun guns, two water cannon, stronger defensive sprays and more personal safety equipment, the Garda commissioner, Drew Harris, told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday. He has warned that radicalisation will lead to further disruption.