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Members of the public protesting at Dublin's Port Tunnel this evening. PA

East Wall residents' group block Dublin's Port Tunnel over asylum seeker accommodation

It comes after Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman said the old ESB building in East Wall will not be closed as emergency accommodation for refugees.

EAST WALL’S RESIDENTS’ group have blocked Dublin’s Port Tunnel as part of a protest over the housing of asylum seekers at an old ESB building in the area. 

The residents’ group have held several protests outside the building over the last few weeks after claiming they were not consulted about the asylum seekers being accommodated in the office building. 

Several hundred people attended a protest in the area last Monday, while a smaller protest was held on East Wall Road last Tuesday evening, though local residents did not gather outside the old ESB building.

The group met with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman on Friday.

A number of residents asked for the facility to be shut at the meeting. However, speaking today, O’Gorman said the former office block will not be closed as emergency accommodation for refugees.

Traffic is currently blocked from entering the Port Tunnel, with northbound traffic being diverted to Sherriff Street and southbound traffic being diverted to Alfie Byrne Rd.

Speaking to The Journal this evening, local councillor Nial Ring said the group would be blocking traffic from entering the Port Tunnel until 6pm. 

“The Minister has said he has no intention in shutting the facility and the residents want it shut on the basis it’s not fit for purpose. No other reason,” Ring said. 

“The traffic is being blocked until 6pm. There’s been no traffic in or out of the tunnel for the last 20 minutes. The traffic is just chaotic now at this stage.”

east-wall-protests People protesting at Dublin Port this evening. PA PA

He said the protest was “99% the residents”, adding that the “others don’t seem to be around”, referring to smaller groups who attended last week’s protests and chanted “get them out” as well as anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.

A number of known far-right activists were also present at the protests last week. 

Footage of the protest shared online showed one person holding a tricolour flag with the words ‘forgotten Irish’ written on it. 

“It’s just a peaceful protest. Looking at it now, the traffic I’d say is way past the Tom Clarke Bridge at this stage, but that’s what has to be done,” he said. 

Ring added that the group are also planning to block the Port Tunnel on Wednesday and Friday.

Speaking today, O’Gorman said he and the Government are not in a position to “countenance closing emergency accommodation” for international protection applicants or Ukrainians.

“As I’ve said a number of times, my department is now accommodating 64,000 individuals from Ukraine or other countries who have come here seeking shelter, seeking safety from persecution, from war,” O’Gorman said.

“That’s necessitated us acting quickly, securing emergency accommodation where we can. We’ve secured some in East Wall, we’ve secured it in other places over parts of the country, and we will continue to do so.

“I engaged and met with representatives of residents of East Wall. They raised a range of issues with me, some of them in terms of the operation of the specific accommodation there. We looked to act on as quickly as we can, but in principle we need to be able to provide accommodation for those fleeing here.”

The Green Party minister said that he plans to bring in additional staff in his department to speak with communities about its plans.

He added: “I think it’s really important that we provide information in terms of the opening of new emergency accommodation, and we need to do that in a timely way.

“I’ll be looking to better resource a unit within my own department in order for us to be able to do that.

“I think there are some groups out there, and we know of them, who will use any opportunity, be it the opening of Direct Provision or emergency accommodation, be it using the Covid crisis to push a particular agenda, and we and all of government and indeed all of society will have to respond to that.”

Additional reporting from the Press Association

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