Delivery driver who intervened in Dublin attack to run in local elections

On the afternoon of 23 November, Caio Benicio, a Brazilian Deliveroo rider, was cruising through Dublin city centre when he saw a melee on Parnell Street.

At first he thought it was a drunken brawl; then he realised a man with a knife was stabbing a child. Benicio leaped off his motorbike, removed his helmet and used it to hit the attacker, who fell to the pavement, stunned.

It was a horrific scene: three children and a woman had been stabbed, two of them grievously.

When word spread that the suspected attacker was a migrant – he was a naturalised Irish citizen originally from Algeria – a riot erupted, leaving police injured, vehicles gutted, shops looted and a question mark in some people’s minds over Ireland’s attitude to immigration.

It was just the start of a series of remarkable events that upended Benicio’s life. In rapid succession he became famous, then rich, and now, six months later, he is running for Dublin city council in local elections on 7 June.

Riot police officers face down demonstrators next to a burning police car near a crime scene of a school stabbing that left several children and adults injured, in Dublin, Ireland, November 23, 2023.
Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

“I could be on the beach in Rio,” Benicio, 43, said as he prepared to canvas for votes around Dublin’s inner city. “But what would be the meaning? It would be selfish if I took all the money and went back to Brazil.”

It is a startling turnaround for a man who not long ago was one of thousands of anonymous delivery riders – many of them foreigners – who crisscross the city. Now he symbolises the positive impact of immigration amid a political backlash over asylum seekers and migrants entering Ireland through the UK.

Vehicles were still smouldering after the riot when Benicio discovered someone had launched a GoFundMe initiative to buy him a new helmet and motorbike. Called “Buy Caio Benicio a pint”, it took off and raised more than £300,000.

“It’s not something that I asked for. It was amazing,” recalled Benicio, seated in a hotel yards from where the attack happened and the riot started. “I think Irish people were ashamed at what happened that night and this was how they could show the world that that tiny group of people didn’t represent Ireland.”

Over Christmas, he flew back to his wife and two teenage children in Niterói, a city in Rio de Janeiro state, to ponder his future. He had planned to stay in Ireland until he had saved enough money to start a business in Brazil, where he used to own a restaurant.

“I was in a comfortable place, on the beach, drinking my pints, everyone calling me a hero. But I never called myself a hero. I wondered if I had something else more important to achieve.”

Benicio had initially planned to stay in Ireland until he had saved enough money to start a business in Brazil, where he used to own a restaurant. Photograph: Rory Carroll/The Guardian

Brazil’s hyper-polarised politics did not appeal, but in Ireland he had a profile and was familiar with problems faced by couriers and immigrants generally. Perhaps, he thought, he could be their voice.

Returning to Dublin, he quit Deliveroo, became a consultant for another courier firm, Ondway Delivery, and spoke to Isabel Oliveira, a fellow Brazilian who was running for Fianna Fáil, a ruling centrist party, in the local elections.

She connected him with Mary Fitzpatrick, a Fianna Fáil senator, who alerted him to the challenges of being a public representative. “A hero is hugely regarded and valued. As a politician you get the direct opposite of that a lot of the time. I was very straight with him,” said Fitzpatrick.

Undeterred, Benicio convinced the party he was serious and was added to the roster of candidates.

“I am delighted that Caio will be contesting the upcoming local elections,” Micheál Martin, the Fianna Fáil leader and foreign minister, posted on X. “Caio wants to play a greater role in his community and I think he will make a very fine public representative.”

If elected, Benicio said he would champion public safety and rights for gig economy workers. As a delivery rider, he faced hostility from teenagers – there have been multiple attacks on couriers – and treacherous road conditions.

“It’s tough – you have to face the cold, the wind, the rain.” Youths who targeted couriers should be nurtured and taught about Ireland’s history of emigration, he said. “Those kids are the future of Ireland.”

The Guardian