‘This is serious. They mean business’: Migrants living in fear as ‘violent atmosphere’ brewing in Dublin

Gardaí investigating after attack involving dogs and baseball bat on migrant camp, while groups report increasing ‘vocalisation’ of racism

Gardaí are continuing their investigation into an attack, involving dogs, sticks and a baseball bat, on a migrants’ camp in north Dublin over the weekend.

A group of men arrived at the encampment, which comprised about 15 tents on the banks of the Tolka river in Ashtown, just before 1pm on Saturday and shouted: “Get out. Get out,” and “pack up and get out now. Now.”

When interrupted by The Irish Times and asked why they were attacking the camp, the men – all white, Irish – alleged the residents had been involved in an assault locally.

Four of the individuals who arrived had dogs, including a German shepherd and an American pit-bull 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.


Between six and eight men – Polish, Croatian, Hungarian, Portuguese, Indian and Scottish – have been living at the camp since August, without incident, they say. In recent days, however, video footage of the camp has circulated on social media, with one video posted on Twitter saying: “It’s like a little village. They say they’re Irish? They’re not f**king Irish.”

Gardaí arrived at the camp shortly after the men and dogs left, and spoke to those living there. One, a Croatian man (20) told The Irish Times he had been hit several times with a baseball bat. Visibly distressed, he said his arm was not broken. “I have strong bones, but the tendons are sore”.

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

Listen | 15:23

Another man in his 30s, from Portugal, said they would leave the camp and most of their belongings and go to the city centre.

“This is serious. They mean business. We will just have to pack up and go, that’s it, and not come back here. I will bring my documents and my bags and that’s all I need. It’s going to get worse if we stay,” he said.

A third man, from Hungary, was angry. Rolling a cigarette, he said he didn’t know how to feel after the attack.

“I like Irish people but when they start being racist, I cannot take it. That was scary. I never experienced anything like that, never.”

Gardaí told The Irish Times that their investigation into the incident over the weekend was continuing. None of the men who were at the camp when it was attacked could be contacted on Sunday.

Meanwhile, groups working with migrants report an increase in racism during attacks, and an “uptick in palpable fear” among minorities over the last three months.

Louisa Santoro, chief executive of the Mendicity Institution which works with homeless migrants, said the group were “attacked all the time” and racism was increasingly “vocalised”.

“We are seeing it all the time at the moment. I wouldn’t say the attacks are more frequent, but there is more vocalisation of racism. It’s absolutely becoming normalised. Some of the injuries we see people coming in our doors with can be pretty extreme.”

Aubrey McCarthy, founder of the Tiglin housing and addiction charity, said “the tide has started to turn a little” against non-Irish people engaging with the charity. “People are starting to question why we’re helping even the Ukrainians. Not a good sign.”

Shane O’Curry, director of the Irish Network Against Racism, said members were “definitely seeing more racist attacks”. A “violent atmosphere” was “brewing” with a noticeable “uptick in palpable fear as right-wing discourse has ramped up in the last three months”, he said.

“Minorities see these egregiously untruthful memes and videos and are not irrational at all in feeling they are potential targets of violence. They are asking what is being done to protect them,” said Mr O’Curry.

Former Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger is calling on people to join a “stand out against racism” event in Ashtown, at the train station, on Monday at 6pm.

*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