Gardaí investigate alleged assault at migrant camp in Ashtown

Homeless men moved from Dublin 15 site after camp raided

Gardaí have opened a criminal investigation into an alleged assault at a migrant camp in Ashtown, Dublin over the weekend.

It follows an incident in which a group of men arrived at the encampment, which comprised about 15 tents on the banks of the Tolka River just before 1pm on Saturday shouting to the migrants to “pack up and get out now”.

The Irish Times had just left the camp having interviewed the residents – most of them EU nationals – about the camp and homelessness, and returned on seeing the group arrive. When asked why they were at the camp, the men – all of whom were Irish – alleged the residents had been involved in an assault locally.

A number of the men who arrived had dogs, including a German shepherd and a pitbull terrier. One wore a black balaclava, while another carried a baseball bat and allegedly used it to assault a young Croatian* man who has been camping at the site since last year.


The young man’s injuries were treated in the Mater hospital over the weekend.

Speaking to The Irish Times by phone on Tuesday, he said his arm had been X-rayed and “everything is okay”.

In a statement on Tuesday, a Garda spokesman said: “Gardaí are investigating an alleged assault that occurred in the River Road, Ashtown, Dublin 15 on Saturday, January 28th, 2023. No arrests have been made. Investigations are ongoing.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the incident as “very disturbing”. “While I can’t comment on the specifics of the case, I do condemn unreservedly any incident or threat of violence against vulnerable people in our society, particularly those from a migrant background,” he said in the Dáil on Tuesday. “People have the right to protest but they don’t have the right to do it in a way that causes others to fear for their safety or in ways that threaten public order.”

The camp was abandoned by its final resident on Tuesday. The Polish man, who had slept in a makeshift shelter on Monday night, was brought to the city centre by the Streetlink charity where he engaged with homelessness services and received medical attention. He did not want to give his name to The Irish Times, saying it was “dangerous”.

Men with dogs, sticks and baseball bat attack Dublin migrant camp

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A spokeswomen for Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) said all those who had been at the camp had been offered emergency accommodation. “The Dublin outreach team had been assertively engaging with the individuals at this site, before the weekend. All individuals engaged have been offered emergency accommodation and five of these have accepted.”

Three have been placed together in one centre, which would provide them with “safety in numbers”, said Padraig Drummond, volunteer with Streetlink.

He said the raid on Saturday had not been the first. “There’s been a lot of intimidation over the previous few days, from people coming into the camp, though the Saturday one was the most brutal,” he said. “It is disgraceful, an attack on the most vulnerable people. When you look at the conditions here that they have been living in for so long – it’s absolutely atrocious and to come down and perpetrate this absolutely vicious assault for no reason.”

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has “strongly condemned” social media abuse directed at Irish Times journalists working on the Ashtown story, describing it as “despicable”. Since the story was published on Saturday, Social Affairs Correspondent Kitty Holland and photographer Dara Mac Dónaill have been subjected to “despicable” abuse on social media, Séamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the NUJ, said in a statement.

“The abuse of Ms Holland, in particular, is vile and beneath contempt. There have been suggestions that the story was fabricated. Kitty and Dara are journalists of the highest integrity who behaved with utmost professionalism. This was a despicable incident, and their presence thankfully prevented a more serious incident,” he said.

Mr Dooley said this is “part of a pattern of behaviour on Twitter and other social media platforms”.

“We encourage all members to report abuse to the social media platform providers, to their employer and where appropriate to the gardaí,” he said

“Journalists will not be prevented from covering the activities of far-right groups by attacks on social media. Our members have also been abused in public and we are working with media organisations and An Garda Síochána to put in place measures to protect media workers and to ensure that all attacks are reported.”

He added: “The sharp increase in social media attacks on female journalists is especially worrying and gives rise to grave concern.”

Éanna Ó Caollaí and Conn O Midheach, on behalf of The Irish Times chapel, or office branch, expressed solidarity with their colleagues.

They said: “We join in condemning these attacks. Irish Times journalists will not tolerate intimidation from any quarter. It is not acceptable to abuse workers for doing their job. Attacks on women journalists are all too prevalent and this behaviour cannot be tolerated.”

*The nationality of this man was amended based on new information: 02/02/2023

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times