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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Ireland For All

'We are not to blame, but the Government is': Speakers address crowd of thousands in Dublin

Crowd hears there is “a crisis of greed, prejudice and ignorance”.

THOUSANDS GATHERED IN Dublin on Saturday afternoon to march in solidarity with an Ireland For All demonstration, organised by a coalition of over 100 community groups, unions and political parties. 

The march, which began at Parnell Square and ended outside the Custom House, commanded a significant turnout, with crowds of people stretching from the south end of O’Connell St back to the Garden of Remembrance. Gardaí at the march were unable to provide The Journal with an estimate of the crowd size.

Speakers at the event included Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, who told the crowd it was wrong to say that Ireland has no room for refugees when the island’s population remains lower than pre-famine levels. 

“Our crisis is not that we have no room,” said Devlin McAliskey. “It’s that we have a crisis of humanity, a crisis of capitalism, a crisis of greed, prejudice and ignorance that needs sorting.”

Leon Diop, creator of the Black and Irish organisation, also addressed the crowd, saying “The far-right are playing on people’s fears to shift the blame for these longstanding issues onto refugees, and that is absolutely wrong. It is the government’s fault. We need to replace this culture of fear and frustration with a culture of empathy.”

Discontent with the Government was a common theme among speakers. Dr Salome Mbugua, founder of Akidwa, a national network of migrant women living in Ireland, said: “The issue of housing has been there for many years. Ask the government to deal with that. They should be going to demonstrate at the Dáil, not at asylum-seeking houses.”

Memet Uludag, Chair of United Against Racism, referenced societal problems such as the housing crisis and cost of living, saying: “We are not to blame, but the government is.”

Speakers also pled for an end to anti-immigration demonstrations that in some cases have involved asylum-seekers being intimidated.

“The impact that these protests are having, it’s very huge. It’s scary to the people who are in these centres, it’s scary to the children who are afraid, who ask ‘When they come to us, will they come and shoot us?’ It’s very bad,” said Lucky Khambule, co-founder of Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland.

“Hate, lies, and racism are not going to build us better hospitals,” Uludag said.

Some of those in the crowd were not seasoned protestors, with two women telling The Journal that it was their first time to take part in a protest of any kind.

“I think this is a really important issue. I hate to think of underlying racism being given voice and an opportunity to express itself, so I want to show that there’s a lot of Irish people who stand against that,” said one.

“I’ve never marched in my life,” said the other. “But I’m marching today because it’s so important.”

During the event, iconic Irish folk singer Christy Moore sang an a capella rendition of Viva La Quinta Brigada, a song in tribute to Irish soldiers who fought against fascism in the Spanish civil war. 

“My primary purpose is to express revulsion for the hatred and violence fomented by a small minority who daily attack those unfortunate people who have come here seeking sanctuary from war, hunger, poverty and oppression,” Moore said.

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