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Minister says East Wall 'leaflet drop' is planned amid dispute over asylum seeker accommodation

Sinn Féin’s Mark Ward said there ‘seems to be a complete lack of planning from the Department’.

This evening's protest in East Wall.
This evening's protest in East Wall.
Image: TheJournal

INFORMATION LEAFLETS WILL be delivered to residents across Dublin’s East Wall area from tomorrow as part of a “process of communication”.

Several hundred people attended a protest in the area yesterday against the housing of refugees at an old ESB building. 

One local resident at the protest said there was no consultation with the community ahead of the use of the building for those seeking asylum.

Another smaller protest was held on East Wall Road this evening, though local residents did not gather outside the old ESB building.

One speaker said that local residents would hold daily protests until they had a meeting with the minister. 

“This is a very evolving situation. Our intention at this point is to be here every evening. If we get confirmation of a meeting with Roderic O’Gorman, we may well change those plans,” he said. 

A smaller group within those who had gathered heckled the speaker and asked why the protest was not being held outside the building where the refugees are being housed. 

The same speaker said that local residents would not be “distracted by elements who have other agendas” and who have “allowed the media… to distract from what is happening here and to paint us with brushes that we do not need to be painted with”.

“If those people have nothing to contribute, and they’ve contributed very little to any of the protests other than disruption… if they’re not prepared to come here and abide by the instructions of the stewards and other people who are here, then they can go somewhere else and have their own protest,” he said. 

After local residents were encouraged to disperse, the smaller group then formed outside of the building and began to shout remarks such as “get them out” and “we have to protect our own people”, as well as anti-vaccine and ‘new world order’ conspiracy theories. 

Speaking a Joint Committee discussion this afternoon on the refugee accommodation crisis, Minister for Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman said: “From tomorrow on, we’ll be doing an extensive leaflet drop across the East Wall area.”

Minister O’Gorman said the leaflets will include information such as how many people will be living in the accommodation and “addressing some of the issues that have been raised”.

Sinn Féin TD Mark Ward claimed that there “seems to be a complete lack of planning from the Department in this instance”.

He added: “The lack of dialogue has led to division that has been manipulated by right wing elements giving out false information and misinformation into the community that’s causing division.

He also said: “What happened in East Wall was not only disrespectful to the local community, but also disrespectful to the asylum seekers.”

During his remarks to the Joint Committee, Minister O’Gorman acknowledged that there “should be a better mechanism of communication” and said he would “strengthen our ability to get clear and correct information to people”.

The minister also said that the Government was aware of “nefarious groups” stoking fears in East Wall in Dublin City around housing international protection refugees in the area.

However, while Minister O’Gorman said he didn’t wish to make an “excuse”, he added: “We are having to act far more quickly than I would like, but it is for the very simple reason that we are needing to be able to find beds and spaces for people on a daily basis.

“That’s not to make an excuse because there should be a better mechanism of communication, but it’s just to provide a reason and a context.”

Minister O’Gorman also made reference to the “new and small team in the context of the challenge”.

Meanwhile, Independent Senator Lynn Ruane said that while communities should be “empowered to be part of the response”, communities should not be allowed to act as “gatekeepers to who comes here and when”.

She also dismissed the idea of Garda Vetting for asylum seekers, saying: “We don’t ask if our neighbour has been vetted when they get their local authority house.”

Minister O’Gorman agreed and noted that Garda Vetting has a “very specific meaning in Irish law”.

“You get vetted if you are working or volunteering with children or with adults who are vulnerable,” said O’Gorman, “and there’s a clear process and that’s where vetting takes place and it doesn’t take place anywhere else.”

Elsewhere, Minister O’Gorman said Ireland will stop using tents to house refugees despite a severe shortage of suitable accommodation.

He told the committee that there are 310 people living in tented accommodation, which had been used as an emergency measure this autumn amid record high numbers of homeless people and high house prices and rents.

Military-grade tents at the Gormanston army camp in Co Meath and other locations have been used to house refugees temporarily as more permanent accommodation was sought.

There has been a severe shortage of suitable emergency accommodation available as the number of Ukrainians in Ireland has increased – the latest figures show there are about 63,000 Ukrainians in Ireland.

O’Gorman said that if they had not used hotels, Ireland would have had to stop taking in Ukrainian refugees from March or April.

“We are now looking to end the use of tented accommodation, and indeed, some of the people who are living in East Wall were former residents of tented accommodation in Athlone,” O’Gorman said.

“There’s 310 in total living in tented accommodation, we’re going to cease that use.”

With additional reporting from Jane Moore and Press Association

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