Irish riot police form a cordon in Dublin as people take to the streets following a suspected school stabbing. AFP

Protesters in Dublin on Thursday torched a car and fought police, an AFP journalist reported, after three children were injured in a suspected school stabbing that social media rumours attributed to a foreign national.

A five-year-old girl sustained serious injuries and four other people, including two children, were taken to hospital after the incident at a city centre primary school, which occurred shortly after 1:30 pm (1330 GMT).

Hundreds of people took to the streets after rumours circulated of the attacker's nationality, some fighting with police and attacking vehicles, according to the AFP journalist.

Police chief Drew Harris blamed a "complete lunatic faction driven by far-right ideology" for the disorder and warned against the spread of "misinformation".

He said a number of police vehicles had been damaged, with video footage showing one car on fire.

One protester told AFP that "Irish people are being attacked by these scum."

Police earlier declared a major incident and threw up a cordon around Parnell Square in the heart of the Irish capital but said they do not suspect a terror motive.

Irish media and eyewitnesses reported that a man armed with a knife had stabbed the victims outside the school.

Witnesses told how a man had been disarmed and prime minister Leo Varadkar said a suspect had been arrested.

Police, the Garda Siochana, said in a statement they were "following a definite line of inquiry" and were "not looking for any other person at this time".

It added: "Five casualties have been taken to various hospitals in the Dublin region.

"The casualties include an adult male, an adult female and three young children."

Superintendent Liam Geraghty later told media that "a young girl aged five years has sustained serious injuries and is currently receiving emergency medical treatment."

A five-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl sustained less serious wounds and the boy has since been discharged, he added.

The woman was being treated for serious injuries in hospital, while the man, said to be aged in his 50s, was a "person of interest" for police, revealed Geraghty.

The police officer said that "from my understanding a knife was used in the attack".

"I'm very strongly satisfied from our inquiries that there is no terror-related activity," he said, adding: "It would appear to be a standalone attack."

Witness Siobhan Kearney said the scene was "absolutely bedlam" as she initially watched events unfold from the other side of the street.

"Without thinking, I just took across the road to help out," she told Irish national broadcaster RTE.

"We got another young man, disarmed him (the attacker) with the knife, another man took the knife and put it away for the (police) to find it."

Kearney added a group of people restrained the suspect on the ground, as some of those injured were taken back inside the school.

Varadkar said he was shocked by the incident.

"The emergency services responded very quickly and were on site within minutes. I thank them for that," he said in a statement.

"Gardai have detained a suspect and are following a definite line of inquiry."

Local lawmaker Aodhan O Riordain, of the Irish Labour Party, said the incident was "disturbing".

"Hope injuries are not serious but it will (be) extremely traumatising regardless for all involved," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Mary Lou McDonald, leader of the Sinn Fein opposition party, said she was "horrified" by what had happened.

"There is shock throughout the community. I have just spoken to the Principal of Gaelscoil Cholaiste Mhuire and relayed my support to the school community," she said in a statement.

"I want to send my solidarity to the families of those attacked. As a parent, I can only imagine what they are going through right now," she added, praising the police for their swift response.

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