A man in his 30s arrested by gardaí in advance of an anti-immigrant protest in Finglas, Dublin on Wednesday night is still being detained in a South Dublin Garda station.
He was arrested on Wednesday at his home by armed members of the Garda Special Detective Unit and detained under Section 30 of the Offences against the State Act and can be held for up to 48 hours without charge. It followed a series of inflammatory comments by him on social media.
A small but vociferous crowd gathered outside Finglas Garda station on Wednesday night in a demonstration that was strongly criticised by local politicians and community activists.
Local Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis said anti-immigration protests posed a risk of “genuine people getting sucked in” by other elements. People “needed to be careful,” he said.
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Everyone had “the right to protest in the right place but doing so outside direct provision centres, refugee centres or politicians houses is not on,” he said. Protests, such as that outside Finglas Garda station on Wednesday night, were also being fuelled by “the Government’s absolutely horrendous housing policy” and not least in Ballymun-Finglas. “A lot of Government policy has led to this,” he said, “it is down to policy.”
The 200 plus protesters on Wednesday night included people “from different places, some far-right, and ordinary people with other grievances”, Mr Ellis added.
Ballymun-Finglas Sinn Féin Councillor Anthony Connaghan said people at the Wednesday night protest “were totally unrepresentative of the people of Finglas.” The attendance included “a lot of young people, some who were just curious, and a small hard-core who are politically right wing and the National Party who were not from the area.”
Overall he said these anti-immigration protests “are symptoms of a broken society” where health care and housing were in crisis and then, “with zero communication from the Government” about the number of asylum seekers being accommodated in each area.
One speaker at Wednesday night’s gathering criticised Sinn Féin and its vice-president Michelle O’Neill who, he claimed, “are all working towards a united Ireland under the crown. They class themselves as nationalists and republicans; they shame us. It is one of our duties as men, as men and the women but more importantly the men.”
Another speaker said, to loud cheers: “This is our country and our culture. No one else. And the only way to deal with these c**ts is burn them out of the f**king place. I’m standing here outside the Garda station, you have to go where the f**kers are, and burn the f**kers out.”
There was a significant Garda presence at the protest. Contributing to this ramping up of the Garda response to far-right activity was the attack on Saturday afternoon by a group on homeless men, mainly from EU countries who had been living in tents in a wooded area at Ashtown near Finglas.
It followed a disinformation campaign, mainly via social media, which claimed foreign or black men were responsible for an alleged sexual attack on a woman on Cappagh Road, Finglas, in the early hours of last Friday morning and despite the fact that the man accused of the alleged sexual assault is white and Irish.
[ Finglas anti-immigration protest: Garda deploys public order unit on raised risk of violence ]
Finglas parish priest Fr Seamus Ahearne also said those protesting on Wednesday were not representative of the community.
The priest, who has served the Finglas area for over 25 years, said he felt “at home in almost every house in this community. People are spontaneous, honest, straightforward and good. It is my privilege to be here and among such people”.
He was speaking at the funeral of Brian Hogan (39), who was stabbed to death at Collins Place, Finglas, on Friday evening last. A man has been charged in connection with his death. At the funeral Mass Fr Ahearne recalled a woman, late of the parish, who “was very proud of Finglas”.
If she had been around last weekend “with the carry-on at Ashtown; she would have been clear that this isn’t Finglas. We are the best. I am here only 25 years and I have some of the same feelings about Finglas”.
Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Simon Harris said gardaí are investigating a number of “people with sinister motives” who are travelling around the country seeking to stir up trouble.
He said there was a “world of difference” between those who were concerned about the number of people seeking international protection and those who were threatening asylum seekers with violence.
“I would say to anybody who has concerns or questions or wishes to engage or consult on these issues, please do not allow your concerns be hijacked or exploited by what are clearly far-right elements.”
Mr Harris added he was bringing forward proposals which will be put to a Cabinet subcommittee next month dealing with the 5,000 people who arrived in the State between January and November last year that had either fake or no documentation on arrival in Ireland.
“When it comes to the migration system, we need to have a rules based system. People who come to Ireland and seek protection and have a right to protection should have a right to get a quick decision in an efficient process,” he said.
“Equally people who get to Ireland and don’t have protection should get a quick decision and if they don’t have a right to stay, they should be asked to leave.
“It is really important that we have robust checks in relation to this. I met with the gardaí in relation to some of their operations in relation to here and abroad.
“I intend to report to the Cabinet committee next month on a series of actions that we can take so that we have a balanced, compassionate, but rules-based and efficient migration system.”
Speaking in the Dáil, Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said the 5,000 people who entered Ireland with false or no documentation amounted to 40 per cent of those seeking international protection last year.
As it takes an average of a year and a half to process each asylum application at an average cost of €18,568 per year, he estimated the cost of those providing false or no documentation to the State is €141 million.
“Its very important that we do the right thing by those who need help. We wont be able to do that, if we don’t have the systems to identify who really needs help,” he said.