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Sam Boal/RollingNews
Sandwith Street

Taoiseach condemns 'violence unreservedly' after tents set on fire at homeless refugee camp

A large garda presence on the street this evening was met with anger by some protestors.

TENTS BELONGING TO homeless refugees were burned last night at a makeshift camp in Dublin city centre, following a tense standoff yesterday between anti-immigration protesters, and those who turned up to voice their support for refugees. 

Footage of several men dissembling a makeshift shelter at roughly 10.45 pm has been shared widely online, as has footage of tents and furniture on fire. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated today:

“I condemn this violence unreservedly. It is malign opportunism. A tiny minority of people are clearly determined to make capital out of a difficult situation. The gardaí are carrying out an investigation. We cannot tolerate actions such as this.”

The makeshift shelter was behind a barricade that was erected by supporters of the refugees after anti-immigration protesters turned up on the street. 

Earlier in the evening Gardaí were present on the street to separate anti-migrant protesters from pro-migrant counter protesters at the site, which is close to where international protection applicants are sleeping in tents.

Large crowds gathered for a protest targeting a small number of tents erected on a small cul-de-sac off Sandwith Street. 

Justice minister Simon Harris also spoke out against the attack on the camp, tweeting:

“Utterly appalling & unacceptable scenes in Sandwith Street last night. Everyone in this country has a right to be safe. The right to protest is never a right to endanger or intimidate.”

Several tents have been pitched in the area near the International Protection Office on Mount Street in the city centre, following difficulties sourcing accommodation for those entering the country in recent months.

Protestors were seen throwing eggs at counter-protestors.

Public order gardaí formed a barrier between the demonstrators.

The large garda presence was met with anger by some protestors. The Journal observed people screaming abuse at gardaí.

Meanwhile, counter-protestors chanted “Refugees are welcome here”.

Kate Mooney from Dublin said she joined the counter-protest to make sure that the homeless refugees “have support and feel safe”.

“There’s really vulnerable people who unfortunately due to a lack of provision by our government have arrived here seeking safety and shelter and are living on the streets,” she told The Journal.

She said that some protestors objecting to their being here have been “taken advantage of” by “agitators riling them up”.

“There are legitimate grievances about housing, about the lack of services in their area and they’re saying it’s the fault of refugees, and it’s not,” said Mooney.

“Really these people need protection and they need people to help them.

“We need to focus our anger on the people who are at fault, who are the government.

“I’m here tonight genuinely just to make sure that the people living on the streets, who have been attacked and have been verbally abused regularly, have support and feel safe.”

IMG_4441 (1) Protestors face counter-protestors Eimer McAuley Eimer McAuley

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said that the destruction of the refugee camp was “an outrage”.

Ó Broin Tweeted:

“This is racism pure & simple. Burning the tents of homeless people who have come to Ireland seeking international protection. This is not who we are as a people. We are better than this.”

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy tweeted that last night’s destruction was the fault of the government.

“Homes of asylum seekers being burned in Dublin last night,” he tweeted.

“We warned the government again and again that by putting asylum seekers on the streets they were putting people in serious danger. They did it anyway as a concession to far-right. Did it satisfy them? Of course not.”     

 Lucas Mateus who is living in a tent outside the protection office, said that he is worried people will think he and others who’ve come to Ireland want to “cause trouble”.

“We aren’t, we are just waiting until we have a work permit and can get accommodation,” he told The Journal.

This was the second day gardaí have been at the site. On Thursday, a number of clashes occurred between the two sides.

Reacting to yesterday’s incident, the Department of Children and Integration has stated that it “deplores any violent incidents or intimidation towards international protection applicants.”

“Access to suitable accommodation is severely constrained at present, particularly for International Protection applicants,” the department said in a statement.

“The Department is availing of all offers of accommodation made to it, including the use of repurposed buildings and tented accommodation, to address the accommodation shortfall.”

“Since the beginning of 2023, more than 5,300 bed spaces have been brought into use for International Protection applicants, alongside more than 5,000 beds for those fleeing the war in Ukraine.”

“The Department is working to secure further accommodation and hopes to deliver significant capacity in the coming weeks to alleviate the shortages being experienced presently.”

With reporting by Mairead Maguire

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