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The leaflet distributed by South Dublin County Council.
South Dublin

Mayor calls on Govt to tackle immigration 'myths' as council launches info campaign

The council is one of the few local authorities in the country to have circulated a booklet to households on international protection.

THE MAYOR OF South Dublin County Council has said that government ministers and local politicians need to show greater leadership in dealing with “pernicious myths” around people seeking asylum in Ireland.

The council is one of the few local authorities in the country to have circulated a booklet to households containing information on international protection, thanks to an initiative by its mayor Alan Edge.

It aims to “set out the facts from fiction” around people seeking international protection in Ireland.

Despite ever-increasing tensions surrounding the issue, the independent councillor has stuck his own face and title on the leaflet as a way of endorsement.

Edge told The Journal that he decided to do it after taking up the mayor’s office last year. Previously, he volunteered with people in international protection who were trying to find a better way of life in Ireland.

“I was very involved in volunteer work and with LGBT+ Afghan refugees. And I’ve often seen, having dealt with a lot of international protection applicants volunteering in the community, that these are people who are doing litter picks, they’re stewarding events.

“So when I was elected mayor in June last year I wanted to do some work that was standing against discrimination, the current climate and use of disinformation in asylum seekers and refugees. It was important to zero in on that.”

While it has “caused some flack”, Edge said the response “by and large has been really heartening” thanks to messages of support received.

“I’ve been contacted by people who were saying that they had questions and that this had answered those for them. But really I would have considered it a failure if I hadn’t got a bit of flack,” Edge added.

However, he said that the campaign was not going to reach everyone. The last several months have seen anti-migrant organising and protests and Edge is uncertain on whether the people behind these demonstrations can be reached at present.

“We’re not going to reach the people who have been entrenched in racist views. There’s nothing we can do about that but we can reach the people who have questions and who are vulnerable to the disinformation campaigns,” he said.

Along with the leafleting, the council is also running a social media campaign showing Edge and people who have come to live in Ireland discussing some common tropes about immigration.

Earlier this month, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said there was a need for the government to handle the issue via a ‘Covid style response’ to manage the communication and engagement with communities affected by sheltering of asylum seekers.

Edge said he has “received support” from the Department of Integration but said he he “would love to see other central government and local authorities” doing similar.

“There is a legitimate criticism about the amount of communication done on this, there is a legitimate criticism about the situation being being saddled on one department. It’s an unprecedented humanitarian disaster to be fair but the communications for it have been very lacklustre,” Edge said.

“There is no information going out there to rebut some of the really pernicious myths, such as that people in international protection pose a risk or are here for benefits. It’s important there is a public service doing this and it shows the use you can put the mayor’s office to as well.”

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