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A large crowd gathered in Ashtown yesterday evening Ruth Coppinger/Twitter

'Only a matter of time before someone is killed': Hundreds attend anti-racism event in Ashtown

Ruth Coppinger helped organise an anti-racist demonstration in Ashtown in Dublin yesterday evening.

LAST UPDATE | 31 Jan 2023

IT IS ONLY a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed as attacks on asylum seekers and migrants increase, Ruth Coppinger has said.

The Socialist activist and former TD was one of the organisers behind an anti-racist demonstration in Ashtown in Dublin yesterday evening.

Over 200 people attended the demonstration.

Speaking to The Journal today, Coppinger said people from Ashtown and beyond attended the event in a strong show of solidarity with those targeted in recent incidents.

“It was a strong response from people in Ashtown and beyond – people did come from other places too because this has become a really serious national issue of migrants being actually physically set upon.”

Coppinger said the rise in incidents such as anti-refugee protests and alleged arson attacks on buildings rumoured to be earmarked to house asylum seekers is deeply worrying.

Gardaí are investigating a possible arson attack at a property on Sherrard Street in Dublin city yesterday evening.

Rumours circulated online in recent days incorrectly claiming that Rawlton House was going to be used to house asylum seekers. A spokesperson for the Department of Integration confirmed that the building is not contracted by them.

Coppinger also noted that some videos and posts shared on social media in recent days amount to incitement to violence.

“It’s only a matter of time before people are injured or killed. Because people are reporting that they’re experiencing much more racism and hostility,” she said.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said that things are moving at speed for someone to be injured and said that this would likely be a migrant or even an Irish person of colour.

“The truth is that the most likely person to get seriously hurt or injured or killed here is going to be a migrant, be they an asylum seeker, or be they even an Irish person of colour, who is walking by, you know, a racist mob, and is set upon,” Murphy said.

Far-right preying on fears

Coppinger said that members of the far-right are preying on people’s concerns about the cost-of-living and housing crises, as well as gender-based violence, and unfairly blaming asylum seekers for these issues.

“We know the basis has been laid for this to happen by the economic and political system, the massive housing crisis, a cost-of-living crisis, emerging from a pandemic, and a refugee crisis.”

She continued: “We need a much bigger response now to the far-right, to the racism that’s being stirred up in society. Because it represents such a small, tiny fraction of the population.

There’s a sleeping giant of the general population that is not racist and just has no truck with what the far-right stand for.

“So we actually need trade unions, student unions, youth organisations, the general population, to come out on an anti-racist protests.

“The far-right is also seizing on fears that women have about violence being perpetrated against them. It is really disgusting because we’ve got a serious problem with gender-based violence, we have for a long time.

“This serves nobody because we actually have to examine the cultures and attitudes that lead to violence against women. And a lot of those attitudes are perpetuated by the far right with their macho culture.”

Labour event targeted

Speaking to media this morning, Labour leader Ivana Bacik said that a public meeting held by the party in Drogheda yesterday was interrupted by anti-refugee protesters.

“We had a public meeting in Drogheda last night that was invaded and disrupted by individuals with anti-refugee views, who tried to shout us down,” Bacik said.

I think it’s unacceptable that across the country we’re seeing this toxicity entering public debate and with these awful consequences for the individuals who are so vulnerable.

According to Bacik, approximately 20 individuals disrupted the meeting, which took place at The D Hotel in Drogheda.

Gardaí confirmed that they were present at the hotel but that no incidents were disclosed.

Bacik said that the protesters left of their own accord during the meeting.

‘Sickening low’

The attack on the homeless camp in Ashtown on Saturday was described as a “sickening low” and criticised by senior members of the Government.

The incident was witnessed by Irish Times journalist Kitty Holland, who was at the camp interviewing the migrants when the attack happened.

A small group of men from various countries had been living at the camp since August.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday described the incident as a “racist attack” and said he would seek more information from Gardaí.

“I don’t have the report from the Gardaí yet but I am going to seek one,” he told Newstalk.

“I am always reluctant to comment on something without knowing the full facts but it has the feel and look of, essentially, a racist attack.”

Earlier, junior minister for integration Joe O’Brien also said he was “shocked” and “disgusted” at reports of the attack.

“I was shocked, I was disgusted,” he told RTÉ radio.

“It’s very worrying. I’ve worked in the area of migrant rights for 20 years plus, I’ve never been more worried about the safety and security of migrants in the country than I am now.”

Coppinger added that they were shouting “get out” at the occupants of the camp.

Additional reporting by Tadgh McNally