People with genuine concerns about asylum seekers arriving in Ireland should take a good look at the people they are protesting alongside, People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy has warned.
He was speaking after protests in parts of Dublin descended into racist chants this week – with people heard shouting things like ‘burn them out’ and ‘get them out’.
There have been over seventy anti-immigration protests across the country in the past month.
Garda sources say there is a sinister element to some of the protests and they fear anger could boil over.
Last night, Newstalk reporter Barry Whyte travelled to Mullingar where around 300 people turned out to protest the use of the local army barracks as temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.
Around 120 men will be housed in five tents on the site for a couple of weeks until they are moved on to more permanent accommodation.
Meanwhile, portacabins are due to be erected there so the site can be used as a temporary hub for women and children in the future.
This woman told Barry why she decided to protest the decision.
“It’s the amount of grown men and we don’t know their origins,” she said. “They’re not being vetted and it is just worrying – we are so close to schools and housing estates.
“How are you going to entertain 150 men? They are supposed to be kept in there, impounded?
“I am not racist by any means – live and let live. I love diversity but this is a bit overwhelming.”
Another man also raised the issue of Garda vetting – something that nobody in Ireland goes through unless they are applying to work with children.
“Who are these men?” he said. “Where have they come from? What have they done before they came here and what do they intend on doing while they’re here?
“It is a fair question. We don’t know what kind of people are coming into our country. We’ve got children and we don’t know who these men are. None of them are garda vetted. So, it is just to look after our children really.
“Half of them could be harmless but half of them might not be.”
'Go back to your home'
Algerian asylum seeker Fatiz told Barry he has been in Ireland for three months and finds the protests intimidating.
“I think maybe 50% of people don’t accept us,” he said.
“In the first few months, we have found it so difficult because people don’t want us here. Like, you could be walking on the street and people will come past in a car in front of you and shout, ‘go back to your home’.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen that. I’ve lived that.”
He said people make no attempt to communicate with asylum seekers adding, ‘They just say, go back.’
“There are a lot of friendly Irish here and there are a lot who, I think they’re afraid, I don’t know," he said.
“I hope one day they will understand.”
Former Justice Minister Michael McDowell said Government has a huge amount to answer for – and warned that not all protesters should be branded fair-right.
“They aren’t all right-wing and they’re not all mistaken either," he said.
He noted that a recent survey asked people whether they agreed with the Government’s immigration policies.
“I don’t see the policy,” he said.
“I don’t see what the limits are, what the quotas are, how we deal with economic migration posing as asylum seeking – I don’t see a coherent response from Government to all of that.
People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy urged people to take a good look at the people they are protesting alongside.
“I would encourage people to just think twice about whether they want to be involved in protesting alongside people who, for example, last night there was a call from a masked man to burn down the centres where refugees are living,” he said.
He again warned that there is a real danger that an asylum seeker or a non-white Irish person will be killed or injured.
“I’m not saying that anybody who has questions or goes on protests is far-right,” he said.
“I am pointing out the truth that, at the core of a lot of these protests, are people who have a long record of far-right activities in far-right organisations and political parties.”
You can listen back to the full report from Newstalk's Barry Whyte here:
Main images show asylum seeker protesters in Mullingar, 02-02-2023. Image: Barry Whyte/Newstalk