Anti-immigration protests have ‘peaked’, gardaí believe

Praise for Garda response on St Patrick’s Day which saw officers stop far-right activists from disrupting parade

Anti-immigration protesters march through Dublin city centre in January. Photograph: Alan Betson

The frequency of anti-immigration protests and the numbers attending have “peaked”, according to An Garda Síochána.

Since late last year there has been a large number of demonstrations against the housing of asylum seekers and refugees from Ukraine, including several outside accommodation centres.

Many of these protests have focused on disrupting traffic, including a demonstration outside Dublin Airport on Sunday evening which caused delays of up to an hour and a half for travellers.

Others, such as a protest on Friday attempting to prevent asylum seekers being housed in Columb Barracks in Mullingar, have led to arrests under the public order Act.


However, the numbers attending these protests have been growing smaller in recent weeks, gardaí believe.

“The frequency and attendance at the protests appear to have reached a peak,” Assistant Commissioner Angela Willis, who is responsible for the Dublin region, said in a report to members of the Dublin City Council Joint Policing Committee (JPC).

In a follow-up meeting, Ms Willis told the JPC gardaí in Dublin have policed 117 protests so far this year, including Sunday’s demonstration outside the airport.

Sinn Féin councillor Daithí Doolan said he agreed with the Garda assessment and praised its response to a small demonstration by far-right activists along the main route of the St Patrick’s Day parade on March 17th.

Members of the Garda Public Order Unit physically blocked protesters from continuing to march as a group towards O’Connell Bridge as gardaí believed they were intent on blocking the parade route. At least one person was arrested.

“I think your response on Patrick’s Day was appropriate in stopping that march trying to intersect with the Paddy’s Day Parade on the bridge. I think anything less than what you did would have would have been seen as a negative,” Mr Doolan told the assistant commissioner.

Richard Guiney, chief executive of the Dublin Town business group, also praised the Garda policing of the day. “They were very firm but did what they had to do in a in a really positive way,” he said.

Meanwhile, a survey of Ukrainians living in Ireland, who originally found protection from the war, found that 41 per cent plan to stay here for a long period.

The research from Ukrainian Action in Ireland (UACT) found that the majority of respondents feel safe in Ireland.

“We are especially glad to learn that 97 per cent of people feel safe and 80 per cent of Ukrainian children are happy to be in Ireland,” said Olena Redrugina, founding director of UACT and survey team lead. “The survey allowed us to go deeper into the topics that are crucial for smooth integration of people in a new country, such as progress in language studies and employment, education, health and wellbeing of children.”

According to the survey, which contacted 10 per cent of Ukrainians who relocated to Ireland following the outbreak of war, the use of English as the main language of communication and “territorial remoteness” from Russia were the two primary reasons respondents chose Ireland as their destination. Provision of housing by the State was also listed as a motivating factor.

A further 26 per cent of respondents said they would like to return to Ukraine once there is a full cessation of hostilities and work becomes available again in their home country. Only 7 per cent of Ukrainians have found employment in their field of expertise since arriving in Ireland while 14 per cent have a job away from their primary field and 35 per cent of respondents are unemployed.

The survey discovered that 43 per cent of Ukrainian children surveyed study in both Irish and Ukrainian schools simultaneously and 57 per cent of respondents said the language barrier is the most significant challenge facing Ukrainian children in Ireland. From next September, Leaving Certificate students will be able to study Ukrainian.

According to UACT, respondents are “overall highly satisfied” with the accommodation provided for them since their arrival into Ireland. 10 per cent of people are now living with host families, with the majority staying in hotels or hostels provided by the Government.

UACT is a non-profit organisation which was founded in May 2022 to support Ukrainians who are seeking protection in Ireland.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist