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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
Sasko Lazarov Minister Roderic O’Gorman outside Government Buildings today.
# Asylum Seekers
O'Gorman: 'Disturbing' that anti-immigration protesters are 'wrapping themselves in the tricolour'
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has described some recent protests outside asylum seeker accommodation as wrong.

LAST UPDATE | May 23rd 2023, 4:25 PM

MINISTER RODERIC O’GORMAN has said he doesn’t believe protesters blockading access to refugee accommodation is acceptable. 

When asked about recent protests at sites recently, the minister said he has always recognised the right to protest, stating that “people have a right to disagree with government decisions in terms of the accommodation of international protection applicants”. 

“But I don’t believe blockading is acceptable. I don’t believe people in masks is acceptable. I think that goes far beyond any element of legitimate protest,” said the minister, adding: 

And I think it is disturbing to see people kind of wrapping the tricolour around themselves because I don’t believe that’s what the very significant majority of Irish people believe in either.

His comments come after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described some recent protests outside asylum seeker accommodation as wrong.

“We are seeing something like we have never seen before,” he said, in terms of the number of people seeing refuge in Ireland. 

He said while “some are genuine refugees, some are not, but international law and common decency requires we provide them with accommodation and food while we assess their applications”. 

“Everyone has a right to shelter no matter who they are and where they come from,” he said today on his way into Cabinet.  

“I really think protests are wrong in that regard – they very much go against our culture and understanding of being Irish people having migrate to all parts of the world for so many different reasons, both to flee persecution and also for a better life,” said Varadkar. 

‘Moral responsibility’

Opposition TDs have criticised the government’s handling of international protection applicants with Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane saying the government have the “moral responsibility” to get applicants and citizens out of tents.

Speaking today, Cullinane said: “Nobody, be it the Irish or non-national, or someone seeking international protection should be sleeping in tents and there’s a moral responsibility from the government to deal with that.”

Cullinane criticised the lack of, what he labelled, “engagement” that the government have had with communities and said that the local communities and politicians should be consulted with before the decision to place applicants is made.

“I don’t believe anybody should have a veto of who moves into a community, but there’s a difference between having a veto and consultation and what I would call engagement – which is sharing information and informing local communities and local politicians as to what’s happening,” the Sinn Féin deputy said.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barret said that the government has set up vulnerable asylum seekers to be “attacked and scapegoated” by leaving them homeless.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said: “They have put them in danger and played into the hands of a far-right minority that want to stir up hatred and poison and lies to scapegoat vulnerable asylum seekers for problems that are actually caused by government policy failure.”

Leader of the Labour Party, TD Ivana Bacik said today: “The entire responsibility been left with Minister O’Gorman while other relevant ministries such as Housing and Justice appear to offer little support.”

Bacik called on the Taoiseach to “coordinate an all-of-government approach at a national level” to tackle the issue, adding that it requires a “NPHET-style response, led by the Taoiseach with a senior CMO-style figure”.

Boyd Barrett said there are “very serious questions” to be asked over the policing of the far-right due to the contrast between the “heavy handed” policing that Debenhams workers faces in 2021 and the “light-touch policing” from the gardaí to the “very sinister” group.

Garda response

Yesterday, Minister for Justice Simon Harris said that there was not for the public to question decisions of Gardaí on the ground at protests and that the public must not “second guess” operational decisions.

However, Boyd Barrett thinks that there are still questions about the “consistency of policing standards” in the country.

Cullinane said the gardaí need “discretion at an operational level”, adding that no one should be directing intimidation towards An Garda Síochána, politicians or other protesters.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, who was also present at Dublin Castle yesterday, said that the Gardaí are not taking a “softly softly” approach when it comes to the far-right, but rather that the force is trying to not “fall into the trap” by pursuing enforcement action that may be viewed as disproportionate.

Cullinane said there was “sense” in the comments Drew Harris made however that the gardaí must act where the law is broken and that there is a responsibility on the police to “make sure that the law in enforced”.

The TD said that the far-right have stirred up hatred and poison against asylum seekers in a “very dangerous way” and are “doing the government a favour” by deflecting away from the accommodation issue both nationally and for international protection applicants.

The deputy labelled the far-right’s agenda as “rotten” and said that the “so-called champions of the community are actually really doing the dirty work of the establishment” through their beliefs and policy.

Boyd Barrett said the public should be “directing the energy to deal with the real problems in Irish society at the failures of government policy”.

Christina Finn and Muiris O'Cearbhaill