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Protestor gather around a makeshift fire outside Racket Hall as they protest the arrival of families. Niall O'Connor/The Journal
Racket Hall

'Bring your kids out': Protests as asylum seeker families with children arrive at Roscrea hotel

Protests against asylum seekers being housed at the Tipperary hotel began last week.

AS DARKNESS AND freezing temperatures fall over Racket Hall, local protesters have been joined by a number of far-right agitators from other parts of the country in an attempt to stop asylum seekers and refugees being housed in the area.  

During the afternoon, a social media account linked to an anti-immigration campaigner called on people to gather at the site at 7pm. “Stand up Roscrea” and “We won’t let traitors destroy our home!”, it read.

Well-known anti-immigration activist Derek Blighe from Fermoy was present this evening, as well self-styled “citizen journalist” Philip Dwyer

The far-right agitators spoke to locals and discussed their cause, repeating many anti-immigration tropes around population replacement and so-called ‘plantations’.

The crowd increased to about 300 people as speeches were made by local activists tonight. 

One speaker stood on top of a Dyna pick up truck to criticise gardaí, RTÉ and the rest of the media. He called for large crowds to be at the hotel every night, encouraging people to remain until the morning. 

Racket Hall has become the latest focus point of such activists after news emerged last week that 160 International Protection applicants would be housed there for the next 12 months, leading to the temporary shuttering of the town’s only hotel. 


A number of groups huddled around two barrels of fire at the entrance of the hotel throughout this evening. As acrid smoke filled the air, other people were in a tent giving sandwiches and tea to the protesters.

An occasional lorry passing on the busy road hooted its horn.

Earlier, gardaí from the Public Order Unit were deployed as 17 international protection applicants – understood to be three families with young children – arrived. 

The sight of the scared kids did little to dissuade the protesters from their actions with one man arrested for an alleged public order incident. 

As the asylum seekers bedded down inside the hotel, signs of “Ireland is Full” and “Asylum Money Racket” are across the walls. Another message scrawled on a white background states: “Justice for the Roscrea People”. A tri-colour hangs from the hotel sign which is flanked by protesters in hi-vis jackets.

A small garda presence remains at the site. There were larger numbers this morning as Public Order Unit gardaí backed up a large number of uniformed officers as the families arrived. 

The ‘soft cap’ unit – not wearing helmets or body armour – lined up from the hotel entrance to allow the refugees to hurry inside. It is understood that some false claims were made in the aftermath of the incident that pepper spray was used. 

Local TD Mattie McGrath arrived later in the evening, telling the crowd he would raise the garda actions in the Dáil on Wednesday. He said sending the Public Order Unit was a ‘retrograde step’. 

He told The Journal that ‘this showdown today didn’t have to happen’, adding that Roscrea was full. He said the protest was peaceful and that the Tipperary town has been very welcoming to people of different nationalities in the past.

He noted that the hotel was important for local business as a place for weddings, funerals and other events, such as the now-cancelled Pat Shortt comedy show that was initially advertised for next month. 

IMG_6909 Gardaí at the scene in Roscrea earlier today shortly after the arrival of the families. Niall O'Connor / The Journal Niall O'Connor / The Journal / The Journal

When The Journal called the hotel a voicemail said it was closed for the foreseeable future. Some of the local people who spoke at the site said the closure had upset the community. 

Throughout the day, locals had multiple conversations about how to continue their protest. Initially they said they would finish up at 10pm ‘out of respect to the kids’ but changed tactics, implementing a roster system to keep a presence outside the hotel. 

One man suggested they march back to the town while others argued they should stay at the site and continue their picket. 

Most were agreed that the aim was to make sure no more refugees could make it into the hotel. 

Another man, wearing a hi-vis jacket and with a local accent, stepped forward and said: “What you need to do is bring those numbers up to 500 or 600 every day and lads, to make sure they know we can’t be pushed over. 

“There’s strength in numbers lads, there has always been strength in numbers but the problem is we need to get everybody. No point saying you have the kids and the wife (and can’t come out) bring the kids out, bring everyone out.

“They can’t push women and kids around if there is enough of ye.”

He continued that the protesters need to put “numbers at the gate” including children so that they will not be pushed over. 

A man who was arrested spoke to The Journal after his release, confirming he was cautioned on the basis that he would leave the area. A file will now be prepared and sent to the Director of Public Prosecutors. 

IMG_6925 Philip Dwyer, fourth from the right, speaking to local protestors. Niall O'Connor / The Journal Niall O'Connor / The Journal / The Journal

Another woman Maria Phelan – who said she was from Roscrea and was wearing a Tipperary County Council hi-vis jacket – said despite the arrival of the refugees, the protesters will not halt the barricade. 

“It is not over, I don’t know what you are saying. Stop the rest of them if that is what we have to do. We are not moving out of here and it is as simple as.

“We’ll get the more roads blocked up and try bring people from everywhere if we have to, block them up,” she said. 

In a statement this evening, the Irish Refugee Council said its thoughts are with the families who have moved in the hotel.

“We are hope the families who had to pass by the standoff are not too badly affected. We hope the people of Roscrea can now welcome and support people in the hotel. Human beings are now involved,” the statement continued.

Update: An earlier version of this article said the families were Ukrainian. The Department of Integration has since said the families are International Protection applicants.