Warning that anti-migrant protests could escalate amid Coalition tensions over response to crisis

Ministers told 125 anti-immigration protests have been held in Dublin so far this year

The Government has been warned that protests against accommodation for asylum seekers could escalate amid tensions within the Coalition over the response to the migration crisis.

At its meeting on Tuesday, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman told colleagues that even with 200-300 new accommodation spaces expected this month, there will still be a gap between what the State can provide and what is needed.

In addition to the new refugee accommodation centre in Inch, Co. Clare, which has faced strong local resistance, another three are due to be announced in Dublin. One is said to be in the Dún Laoghaire area, with the location of other two yet to be made known.

Minister for Justice Simon Harris is said to have told the meeting that he and the Garda are very concerned that the situation could escalate, telling colleagues that there have been 125 anti-immigration protests in Dublin in the 4½ months of this year.


However, a number of sources with knowledge of discussions at Cabinet level said Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien “pushed back” against Mr O’Gorman when the Green Party TD repeated a request for assistance from other Departments in accommodating refugees.

Mr O’Brien is said to have raised issues around the lack of deployment of so-called “pod-style” accommodation – a faster form of modular housing – and the use of longer-lease options for accommodating those fleeing Ukraine, with Mr O’Gorman countering that these criticisms weren’t relevant to the current situation and that Mr O’Brien’s Department needed to complete regulations allowing for the wider use of pods.

Some Government sources played down suggestions that there were tensions over refugee accommodation. However, others believe that the Green Party is looking to “spread responsibility”, or conversely that Mr O’Gorman has been unduly burdened with managing the response.

A spokesman for the Green Party said Mr O’Gorman felt adequately supported by his colleagues.

Asked about briefing local communities and politicians in advance of accommodation opening up, the party spokesman said the situation is “very difficult” and, with the State accommodating 84,000 people in the last year, it “doesn’t unfortunately allow for things to be done as smoothly always as we would like it to be done”.

Speaking after he arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland for a summit of the Council of Europe, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there are no proposals to place a cap on the number of refugees entering Ireland.

“There are no proposals to do that,” he said, adding that Ireland is a member of the European Union, which has enacted the temporary protection directive allowing those fleeing the war to live and work within the bloc.

Describing the protest in Co Clare as “not necessary”, he promised more engagement with local communities but said the State is facing an “unprecedented situation”.

Mr O’Gorman and Mr Harris are due to meet Garda Commissioner Drew Harris this week to discuss the policing of protests. Garda sources said opening new facilities had the potential to attract protesters, and gardaí were ready to mount policing operations if, as they expected, that was required. Some gardaí said protests had waned, especially in Dublin, in recent months and those that had taken place were much smaller. However, the scenes witnessed in Dublin last Friday may lead to renewed tensions.

“There is a fear some living in tents will be targeted in the same way or that you’ll see groups that are pro- or anti- refugees squaring off against each other,” said one Garda source. “When that happens once or twice and it gets a lot of publicity, there are certain elements who’ll seize that moment and try to whip up sentiment.”

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times