Far-right groups manipulating anti-asylum seeker housing protests for their own ‘sinister’ ends, says Garda Commissioner

Groups are ‘very small in number’ but using social media to sow fear, says Drew Harris

Gardaí are gathering evidence on far-right groups that Commissioner Drew Harris says are using anti-asylum seeker protests for their own “sinister” agenda.

Far-right groups and individuals have been active in recent weeks in organising protests outside accommodation centres around the country, including most recently in Ballymun.

“We are gathering information on individuals in the background who have a more sinister agenda and who wish to use this for their own motives,” Mr Harris said at a graduation ceremony for 24 new gardaí at the Garda College in Templemore. “And their motives are not good. They could be described as being far-right. We’re very much aware of that and our investigations and inquiries are ongoing in respect of them.”

Sources indicated that these figures were being investigated for harassment, intimidation and incitement to hatred.


A large-scale Garda operation was put in place on Thursday night in advance of a series of anti-asylum seeker protests around the country. All of the protests passed off without major incident. One organiser was arrested and charged with threatening to commit arson against a hotel in Co Kildare housing asylum seekers.

“These are individuals who are very, very small in number. They find influence through social media and then they wish to bring out numbers through false information and creating fear in the community,” the commissioner said. “They are driven by prejudice, it has to be said. We’re very aware of them and the risk to public safety and the risk of crime.”

These activists are liaising with similar groups in Europe, Mr Harris said. “There’s always an international element. They connect with each other through social media. It’s very easy to talk to someone the other side of the globe or in Europe.”

In particular, according to security sources, they have been establishing links with a UK white nationalist group called Patriotic Alternative and have been sharing information on protest tactics and recruitment.

Increasingly active far-right groups are a problem internationally, and gardaí “have learned a lot of lessons” from their colleagues in Europe, Mr Harris said.

Such groups have been capitalising on the arrival of more than 13,300 asylum seekers over the past year, many of whom are being accommodated in temporary premises set up at short notice. This is on top of the more than 70,000 Ukrainian refugees in the State.

In an effort to reduce these numbers, the Department of Justice is to strengthen security measures at points of entry to prevent illegal entry into the country.

It is understood this will involve encouraging airlines to monitor for passengers destroying their travel documents before arriving at Irish airports. A scheme is also attempting to fast-track asylum applications from people from countries classified by the Government as “safe”, including Georgia and Albania.

The number of deportation orders for failed asylum seekers has also increased. Since September, more than 500 have been issued.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times