Anti-immigration protesters block traffic in Dublin and Cork

‘People feel bad, they feel hurt and insulted, scared of course,’ says resident of Travelodge in Ballymun

Anti-immigration protesters caused traffic disruption in parts of Dublin and Co Cork on Thursday evening, with gardaí saying roads were blocked despite the relatively small numbers turning out for the demonstrations.

The largest event appeared to be in Ballymun, north Dublin, where between 100 and 150 people congregated.

Some of the attendees blocked traffic coming from the M50 and also caused significant delays for motorists, for about an hour, on the main road through Ballymun.

Young men on horse-drawn buggies, or sulkies, blocked the junction of Ballymun Road and Santry Avenue as the main protest group marched southbound from the direction of the M50 roundabout back into Ballymun.


The crowd congregated in the public space at Shangan Road in front of the Travelodge hotel, which is being used to house international protection applicants. Members of the crowd, including a large number of teenagers and children of national school age, chanted “close the borders” and “enough is enough”.

The crowds dispersed at about 7pm, some two hours after the protest began. Gardaí maintained a high-visibility presence, with uniformed gardaí on foot and in vehicles escorting the marchers. Plain-clothes gardaí mingled in the area.

The event passed off without incident and no arrests were made.

Ahmed, a resident in the Travelodge in Ballymun, said “everyone here is upset” by the protests. He said gardaí had visited the hotel in the afternoon and advised them not to leave until the protest ended. Management also distributed a brief notice to all residents, in five languages.

“Dear resident, due to ongoing protests we are asking residents to please keep their windows and curtains closed while the protest is ongoing. This is to ensure complete safety for the residents of the hotel,” it read.

This particularly upset families with children, Ahmed said.

“There are kids, children and families and to be told to be in the room and the shut the windows, it looks like a prison. I never imagined this. Everybody is upset… People feel bad, they feel hurt and insulted, scared of course. We came from our countries because of this behaviour, because you feel you don’t have dignity, a good life, safe life.”

Asked what he thought of the ongoing demonstrations outside his home he said: “Honestly, it is a bad feeling. I never thought this would happen here. I heard about this in France, in Malta…I am sure these people are not representing Ireland. Everybody in the world knows Ireland is good people and kind people. Everyone knows that.”

He understood the right to protest, he said. “They are free to protest but no need for the racist words.”

Residents at a centre in Clondalkin were also warned about the protests and were urged not to engage with anyone they see on the street. They were informed some doors usually open to them would be locked from 5pm on Wednesday until Friday morning.

In East Wall, north Dublin, about 100 protesters marched down East Wall Road before blocking the entrance and exit to the Port Tunnel, until about 6pm, while being observed by gardaí.

Some of the protesters in East Wall, which has witnessed demonstrations in recent weeks over the housing of international protection applicants in the old ESB building, carried placards saying “coming soon to an empty building near you”, which were also in evidence at the Ballymun protest.

A Garda source said the protests would be used as an intelligence-gathering exercise to build up a more detailed picture of the key people orchestrating the events

In Fermoy, Co Cork, a demonstration was attended by between 60 and 70 people, according to Garda sources. Again, the protesters blocked traffic and caused congestion and delays in the area when they blocked Kent Bridge for a short period.

Another protest, with up to approximately 50 attendees, also took place in Cookstown, Tallaght.

The group in Tallaght were challenged by counter-protesters, as was a small anti-immigration group that gathered in Clondalkin, west Dublin. The counter protest group in Clondalkin carried placards and chanted “refugees are welcome here”.

As was the case in Ballymun and East Wall, the policing operations planned for protests in other parts of Dublin on Thursday evening - including Drimnagh, Finglas and Ballyfermot - as well as in Fermoy took the form of traffic management operations. Gardaí effectively escorted the groups as their colleagues observed the protesters, including taking surveillance photographs in some cases.

A Garda source said the protests would be used as an intelligence-gathering exercise to build up a more detailed picture of the key people orchestrating the events, though that tactic was not new. Gardaí stressed the protests were legal and that some acts of civil disobedience, such as blocking traffic, were viewed domestically and internationally “as fairly bog standard ways to protest”.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said far-right groups were a national security concern and were being monitored. Garda sources said events organised by the far right usually attract small numbers. But they said that may change, underlining the need for constant monitoring.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times