Ballymun town centre Wikimedia Commons

Housing Minister 'disturbed' by anti-refugee protests in Ballymun over the weekend

Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy said that the protests were “embarrassing” and “upsetting”.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 9th 2023, 6:24 PM

ANTI-REFUGEE PROTESTS that took place in Ballymun over the weekend have been condemned, with Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien saying that protestors do not have a right to intimidate people.

The protests in the North Dublin area took place yesterday evening outside a Travelodge hotel on the Shangan Road, which is being used as temporary accommodation for International Protection applicants.

The Department of Integration said that there were currently 221 refugees staying at the Ballymun Travelodge and that it was made up of families, couples and singles, with nine children currently staying at the facility.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, the Housing Minister said that he had been “disturbed” by the scenes in Ballymun over the weekend.

“I’m very disturbed by them frankly,” said O’Brien.

“I thought that people have a right to protest, but in the appropriate place. They don’t have a right to intimidate people either.”

He said that he had seen footage from the protest, with videos posted on social media yesterday showing a group of protestors chanting “get them out”, while banners call for the resignation of Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman. 

O’Brien said that Ireland had been a welcoming country for refugees, both from Ukraine and other countries, due to its past history with emigration.

“We know from our own history what it’s like to be people who have had to leave our own shores due to oppression, due to war, due to famine,” O’Brien said.

“The vast majority of people living in Ireland here are people who support the efforts to look after our friends from Ukraine and indeed from other countries where people are fleeing persecution.

“It concerns me to see that [the protests], to be very frank and I think that if people have a differing viewpoint, they’re entitled to it, but they’re not entitled to intimidate people.”

The Department also condemned the protests.

“Over the past year, communities across Ireland have demonstrated great solidarity and welcome for those who come here seeking refuge. The Department strongly condemns any attempt to promote division and hostility towards those who come here seeking safety,” a spokesperson said.

Local TD Róisín Shortall condemned the protest this afternoon, saying that most people in the locality she spoke with were “sickened” by it.

“I condemn the protest in the strongest possible terms. The racist sentiments are not representative of the people in Ballymun,” the co-leader of the Social Democrats told The Journal.

Shortall said that she was seeking a briefing from the Department of Integration on the circumstances surrounding the centre, saying that it was important for public representatives to provide information to locals.

She said that there was currently an “information vacuum” and that this can lead to concerns for people.

In particular, Shortall raised concerns about whether or not the Department was staffed sufficiently enough to deal with the high influx of refugees from Ukraine and from other countries.

“I’d call on the Taoiseach to make sure that adequate staff are available,” Shortall said, calling for a “whole of Government” approach to the crisis rather than leaving it to a single Department.

Another local TD, Fianna Fáil’s Paul McAuliffe said that that the community in Ballymun “understands what it’s like to be discriminated against” and that it was a welcoming community.

The Dublin North West TD said that the protests themselves were being carried out by “people with a particular political agenda”.

“The protests are clearly being fostered by people with a particular political agenda, an agenda that does discriminate, an agenda that tells people that their issues can be solved by demonising others,” McAuliffe said.

“I believe most people in Ballymun reject that type of discrimination and are disgusted by people chanting ‘Get them out’ outside a place where people are seeking refuge.”

‘Embarrassing and upsetting’

Lord Mayor of Dublin and Ballymun councillor, Caroline Conroy told Today with Claire Byrne that seeing the protests in the area was “embarrassing” and “upsetting”.

“It’s really embarrassing, it’s upsetting. It’s not what we’re about in Ballymun,” the Green Party councillor said.

She added that it was the views of a vocal minority rather than the majority and that there were individuals coming in from outside Ballymun.

People Before Profit’s Dublin North West division said in a statement that the protests in Ballymun were “shocking” and that it contrasted with the “warm, inclusive community” that is usually seen.

“The protests do not represent the majority opinion of people in Ballymun. They must be understood for what they are and opposed,” the statement reads.

Gardaí told The Journal that the protest yesterday first began at 5.15pm and ended at 6.45pm.

“The group were kept under observation by uniformed Gardaí and dispersed peacefully at approximately 18:45 hours. No offences were disclosed,” a Garda spokesperson said.

The protests in Ballymun follow on from demonstrations in both Drimnagh and East Wall last week.

Protests in East Wall have been ongoing since late November, with several hundred people initially turning out for a demonstration against asylum seeker accommodation in a disused ESB building in the area.

Protestors blocked the Dublin Port Tunnel on several occasions, with two Government ministers meeting with locals over the protests.