Asylum seeker protests will have no impact on government policy, the Integration Minister has told The Hard Shoulder.
Junior Minister Joe O’Brien was speaking after protests against the housing of asylum seekers were held in different parts of the country last week.
The Garda Commissioner has warned that a small number of far-right activists are using the protests for their own “more sinister agenda”, while the Justice Minister has said a “small but sinister element” is using them to divide communities.
Minister O’Brien said people attended the protests “for a whole variety of reasons” – but insisted they will have no impact on Government policy.
“It is tricky to give them all one message except to say that what you did won’t work and what you’re calling for won’t happen,” he said.
“Some of you will have legitimate gripes; you may be legitimately angry about other things that have nothing to do with the people living in the buildings that you are protesting outside but there are better and more productive ways to bring your dissatisfaction through the political system as well.
“It can be very frustrating. A lot of the issues people face have been ingrained for a long time but it does work. The system does work in that regard so don’t point it at people that aren’t to blame for the issues you’re facing.”
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He said he aims to increase the engagement between his department and communities welcoming asylum seekers in the coming weeks.
“It is part of my job to bump up the community engagement side of things as well,” he said.
“There is quite a strong and far-reaching community organisation infrastructure across the country as well and there are strong community leaders as well in every little locality around the country and I suppose I’m in a strong position to start listening and talking to them.
“Opening a dialogue with them to see how we can do this better and make sure the people who are coming into a locality are as linked in as possible to that locality.”
Minister O’Brien said Gardaí are “very aware” of those who are using the protests to spread racist messaging.
“They are monitoring people who are trying to mobilise and spread hate and spread racism as well,” he said.
“They are not going to change our policy and they are not going to move people out of communities because people are embedded into communities and our policy is strong in that regard.
“Will people come to other places and hold up banners? There is a good possibility. Will they change how we do things? I don’t think so.”
Asked whether some of the people attending the anti-asylum seeker protests are racist he said: “Yes. There is no doubt."
“You only need to see what they say.”
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