Children among residents targeted at anti-asylum seeker protests in Ballymun

Involvement of anti-immigration National Party and Irish Freedom Party widely condemned

The TraveLodge in Ballymun has been used to accommodate asylum seekers and homeless people for several years. Photograph: Alan Betson

The residents of asylum-seeker accommodation targeted by far-right protesters in Ballymun in Dublin over recent days included several young children.

The TraveLodge on Shangan Road, which has been used to accommodate asylum seekers and homeless people for several years, was the scene of a number of demonstrations at which attendees were addressed by members of the anti-immigration National Party and Irish Freedom Party.

Protests continued on Monday night with demonstrators blocking traffic for a period, repeating a tactic used by groups objecting to asylum-seeker accommodation in East Wall.

Speakers complained of “unvetted military-aged males” being housed in the hotel and a large group for protesters chanting “Get them out”.


The song Come Out Ye Black and Tans was also played through a large loudspeaker. Gardaí maintained a presence around the hotel throughout the weekend amid fears that protesters might try to gain entry.

The hotel houses 221 asylum seekers comprising single people, couples and families, the Department of Integration said. The total includes nine children, some of whom watched the demonstrations from bedroom windows.

“Over the past year, communities across Ireland have demonstrated great solidarity and welcome for those who come here seeking refuge. The department strongly condemns any attempt to promote division and hostility towards those who come here seeking safety,” a spokesman said.

Over the weekend, the National Party blanketed the area in leaflets saying “Send them home to save our home”, locals said.

The large number of far-right activists present at the demonstration attracted widespread criticism on Monday.

“Regarding the protests themselves, I’d condemn them in the strongest possible terms. I don’t for a moment think they are representative of the vast majority of people in Ballymun,” said Social Democrats leader and TD for Dublin North West Róisín Shortall.

She also criticised an “information vacuum” from Government authorities and said the Department of Integration required more staff to handle the large number of asylum seekers arriving here.

“It’s very sad,” said local Fianna Fáil councillor Keith Connolly. “When you see videos of children standing in the bedroom asking why are they chanting.”

Fianna Fáil TD for the area Paul McAuliffe said the protests were being “fostered by people with a particular agenda” which “tells people that their issues can be solved by demonising others”.

Lionel Duffy, co-ordinator of Youthreach Ballymun, said he was “shocked and appalled” by the protests and that he had concerns about what young people in the area were seeing online.

On Monday, Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy hosted a meeting with community groups and schools in the area in an effort to come up with a response to the protests.

The Green Party councillor, who represents Ballymun-Finglas on Dublin City Council, said she was frustrated that the views of a vocal minority were drowning out those of local groups who welcomed vulnerable refugees to the area.

“We are all coming together to see what is the best response to show the vulnerable coming into the community that we are here for them,” she told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne programme.

The mayor said she believed the protests were being “orchestrated” by the same far-right activists who had held similar protests in East Wall.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said he was “very disturbed” by the protests in Ballymun.

“People have a right to protest but in the appropriate place,” he said. “They don’t have the right to intimidate people.”

Locals who spoke to The Irish Times on Monday in Ballymun had mixed reactions.

Aiden, who declined to give his surname, said he had sympathy with the protesters.

Mary Burke said the protesters did not represent popular sentiment in the area and blamed the Government for creating resentment by “making a mess of housing”.

Other community figures in Ballymun took to social media to criticise the protests, including former Dublin GAA star Philly McMahon. “It has evidence of far rights claws in it,” he said in comments which drew a furious response on right-wing Telegram channels.

Separately, Croke Park has asked local residents around Drumcondra to “be sympathetic” to a group of Ukrainian refugees that will be accommodated in the stadium’s corporate boxes until January 19th.

“As you might gather, the accommodation is by no means salubrious, consisting of sleeping bags and camp beds in our boxes,” stadium manager Peter McKenna told residents.

Mr McKenna told The Irish Times the response to the announcement from the local community was overwhelmingly positive, with locals offering clothes and toys for the children.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times