Ashtown fights back: protestors turn out against migrant protests

by Rose Barrett
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At least 150 people participated in a protest on Monday last, January 30 – to speak out against the refugee anti-protests held last weekend and over previous weekends. 

Residents of Ashtown in West Dublin turned out to voice their disgust at last Saturday’s sickening attack on refugees camping along the River Tolka, unable to seek emergency accommodation.

More recently, a ‘frightening’ attack occurred on refugees camping in Ashtown in tents, which saw protestors with dogs swoop on the terrified refugees.

Since before Christmas, Dublin anti-asylum seekers have been vocal in their opposition to incoming refugees from the Ukraine and other war torn countries. Protests have been held in the East Wall, Ballymun, Tallaght and Ballyfermot.

With Citywest Campus no longer able to facilitate incoming asylum seekers, the Irish government has warned it cannot accommodate the growing incoming numbers.

Sinister Fire  

Gardaí are investigating a suspicious fire this week on an historic building on Sherrard Street Lr. Members of Dublin Fire Brigade attended a fire at the building known as Rawlton House which was rumoured on social media recently to be a likely refugee centre.

A spokesperson for the Department of Children and Integration categorically denied the building had been contracted to facilitate refugees or asylum seekers. In 2021, Dublin City Council granted permission to CDK Properties to build apartments there.  

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 earlier this week, Minister of State for Integration stated he was horrified, ‘totally shocked and disgusted’ regarding last Saturday’s racist protests.

Last weekend saw aggressive protests across Dublin, Waterford and Cork against the Irish government giving protective shelter to asylum seekers within their localities, some voicing the lack of consultation as a primary grievance.

While politicians from high ranking government figures to local councillors have unanimously denounced the protests as racism and fear generated by far right extremists, residents in West Dublin took to the streets to show solidarity with the refugees. Many carried slogans and posters reading ‘Attacks Against Racism – Not in Our Name’.

But is it really that easy to generate misinformation and to unite communities against immigrants most of whom are fleeing war zone countries?

Speaking on Morning Ireland on Tuesday last, Ciaran O’Connor,  senior analyst at the London based Institute for Strategic Dialogue spoke about how far right groups can generate misinformation and imbue a culture of fear through extreme rhetoric.

“We’ve seen protests in multiple towns across Ireland where individual or groups purporting far right ideology spreading false and misleading information similar to 2018, 2019 when rural locations were identified for direct provision centres.”

Mr O’Connor stated videos are often posted online, for example, a clip of non-white males getting off a bus somewhere in Ireland, this is then supported by conspiratorial theories and a negative narrative.

Such videos are very often supported by a playbook, literature and dialogue, for example, using framed language to exaggerate a ‘threat’, e.g. ‘invaders’, ‘invasion’, ‘plantation’… “Hostile remarks, all clearly used to incite hatred or violence against asylum seekers.”

Mr O’Connor noted that sometimes people can be easily influenced by such tactics, if there are local grievances such as housing, health, etc. Far right activities will frame phrases like: “Ireland for the Irish” or “Home the Irish, not the World”.

Basically, extremists can easily use Irish issues and then apply a ‘them and us’ narrative, implying these issues in Ireland are caused by asylum seekers.

The Irish Examiner reported that seven far right videos had achieved at least one million views. The Dublin Gazette viewed some of these videos and witnessed named Dublin residents speaking about their disappointment with the Irish government . One woman stated she was voicing her concerns as ‘it was unsafe for women going to and from work, men heckling women on buses, men throwing stones at boys on the street…’

Another man from Ballymun telling the Irish media and politicians to ‘open their eyes and listen to what’s happening. These people protesting are normal people,  your neighbours…..’

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has called for a specialist task force to be established, to deal with the ongoing conflict and is monitoring the online hatred narrative.

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