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Tánaiste Micheál Martin Alamy Stock Photo

Micheál Martin says people have concerns about migration but vast majority oppose violence

Martin said people should be allowed to go about their work without interference.

PEOPLE IN IRELAND have “genuine concerns” about migration but the vast majority oppose any form of intimidation or violence, Micheál Martin has said.

The Tanaiste said there are far-right elements involved in “making a lot of noise” about migration, but said this is not a reflection of society.

His remarks came as an investigation is continuing after security workers were assaulted and a number of vehicles were damaged by fire at a site in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, earmarked for modular homes for refugees.

There have been a number of other incidents and protests at sites earmarked for asylum seeker accommodation as well as anti-immigration protests outside the homes of political figures in Ireland.

Speaking to the media about the Clonmel incident during a visit to Lebanon, Martin said people should be allowed to go about their work without interference.

He said: “They are not making the political decisions, they should not be harmed, they should not be intimidated or attacked.

“I think most people resent that type of physical attacks on people and it is a concern that that type of activity is growing.

“We have to protect people who are going about their daily work, that’s the norm in any civic society.”

The Tanaiste added: “As a society we need to understand the ground rules and the basic civility about how we conduct our lives.

“I detect when I knock on doors around the country people are concerned about the migration issue.

“There is no point saying people are not, they are.

“But the vast majority of people draw a line between their genuine concerns and intimidation and violence.”

Asked if there is a far-right problem in Ireland, Martin said: “There are far-right elements but we need to keep it in perspective.

“There’s a lot of people making a lot of noise, but the degree to which that is mirrored or reflected in the majority of people I would question.

“So we need to be careful that we don’t elevate certain voices to a level that they are not quite at yet.

“I think most people in Ireland are fair.

“I genuinely understand and I get the concerns that people have about migration because we have experienced an unprecedented level of migration.”

Martin said the centre ground in Ireland needs to be “robust” in upholding the “basic norms of democracy”.

He also said the Government is alert to the problem of foreign actors whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment.

He said: “My own sense and gut instinct is that without question there is a foreign influence and many actors out there who are endeavouring to sow division in EU member states, create dissension and undermine our democratic norms.

“That is happening everywhere across Europe. We are not going to be excluded from that because we are an island off Europe.

“The conversation is similar across all European capitals.

“The far right is far more advanced in other European member states, so we can’t be complacent we are going to be any different.”

Meanwhile, the Government expects to open sheltered accommodation for asylum seekers at the Thornton Hall site in Dublin within weeks.

Integration minister Roderic O’Gorman said it will initially be tented accommodation but added: “We will look then to upgrade that in terms of rapid-build modular units.”

Speaking to reporters today, he said he does not “have a sense” as to how many refugees could be accommodated there.

“We have teams who have been analysing the site late last week and over the weekend in terms of capacity, so I don’t have absolute clarity on that today,” he said.

Need more clarity and context on how migration is being discussed in Ireland? Check out our new FactCheck Knowledge Bank for essential reads and guides to finding good information online.

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