Ashtown camp allegedly threatened by ‘four men’ hours before attack, migrants say

Number of Irish men, with dogs and sticks, entered camp, shouted at migrants to leave and allegedly assaulted two of them last Saturday

Two men allegedly assaulted during an attack on their camp in Ashtown, Dublin, last Saturday say they had been threatened by “four men” who came on to the site, about three hours previously.

The homeless men – from Croatia and Hungary – spoke to The Irish Times this week, after they and four others felt forced to abandon their tents in a forested area by the Tolka River, where they had been living since last summer.

On the afternoon of Saturday, January 28th, a number of Irish men, with dogs and sticks, entered the camp, shouted at them to leave and allegedly assaulted two of them.

The Irish Times had gone to the site to follow up on reports of a number of homeless people living by the river.


Having interviewed the homeless and while getting ready to depart on the nearby road, The Irish Times witnessed the men and dogs entering the camp, from which screaming and commotion could then be heard. The men and four dogs – including a German shepherd, an American pit bull terrier and a Rottweiler – were then seen leaving. One man was wearing a black balaclava. The Irish Times has photographs of the men, which cannot be published at present for legal reasons.

“They ran down from the road – really, really quick,” the Hungarian man (39) said of the men. “It was like a Blitzkreig. Literally, from the moment when I see them coming with the dogs and starting to shout, within a minute they were on the other side of the camp. One had a baseball bat. It was hard to react. They were screaming: ‘Get out. We’ll burn the tents down. Get out now.’”

He said a man raised a bat to hit him around his head, and that he put his arms up in defence. His arms were hit and bruised, he said.

A 20-year-old man, who was initially understood at the scene to be Polish but has now clarified he is Croatian, describes intervening, and also being assaulted. “I told them: ‘Leave him, leave him. Don’t touch him.’ I was screaming, ‘Don’t touch my friend.’

“The guy turned and as he saw I was right behind him, he raised the bat and wanted to hit me on my head as well. I took my arm up and he hit me on my arm, three different times, hard. And basically like after this happened, you came and they went out,” he said.

“In the meantime I was packing my stuff as fast as possible. They came also to me, like screaming in my head. I was saying, ‘We’re getting out. There’s no need to scream. No need to attack us.’”

I really don’t want to be beaten or killed after I make a statement. I just want to be left alone

—  Former camp resident

Gardaí arrived soon after and took the men’s contact details. They and the other camp-dwellers – from India, Portugal and Poland – were then planning to leave with what they could carry to the city centre. The two men who say they were assaulted went to the Mater hospital’s emergency department, where they spent Saturday night.

The men show yellow bruising on their arms. Their arms were X-rayed and no fractures or breaks were found. A hospital social worker secured accommodation for them for Sunday night.

Gardaí have opened a criminal investigation into the alleged assaults. The men are nervous but are considering making statements. “Things could escalate for us,” says the Hungarian man. “I would be afraid if we rat on someone. I am genuinely afraid to make a complaint. It should be investigated though to raise awareness this should not happen.”

His friend says: “I really don’t want to be beaten or killed after I make a statement. I just want to be left alone.”

Garda sources have confirmed they are investigating the alleged assaults on the men as a possible hate crime.

Their camp next to the Tolka was visited repeatedly in the days, and hours, before the attack, the men say. These followed social media posts about the camp. People videoed and took photos of them, they say. One video posted on Twitter the previous Thursday recorded a male in a Dublin accent saying: “It’s like a little village... They say they’re Irish? They’re not f**king Irish.”

About three hours before the attack they say they had to call Gardaí as four men came on to the site and threatened them.

A Garda spokesman confirmed: “Gardaí were called out to a location on the River Road in Ashtown at approximately 10.15am on Saturday morning, 28th January 2023. Gardaí engaged with a number of individuals at the scene. There was no report provided of an assault or injuries to persons.”

A later Garda statement in relation to being called out again on Saturday afternoon said: “Gardaí are investigating an alleged assault that occurred in the River Road, Ashtown, Dublin 15 on Saturday 28th January 2023. No arrests have been made, investigations are ongoing.”

Last night Garda sources confirmed two alleged assaults at the camp last Saturday were now being investigated.

Asked about claims on social media that the attack did not happen, the men point to posts about them on Facebook, including one on Wednesday 25th, saying they should be “ran out” of the area.

“The attack happened,” said the younger man. “This guy made a really racist post and the comments underneath, lots of them... were saying, ‘Packing up. Let’s go’; ‘Get petrol, burn them out’. So how can you not believe it happened? It is so obvious it happened. It happened.”

It is sad. Not everybody is the same, but we should not hate each other because of this

—  Former camp resident

Since Sunday, the two men have been in emergency accommodation outside Dublin city. They dislike hostels and miss the camp, however. “It was a nice place; that tent was my house,” says the younger man.

They say they have “mental injuries” following Saturday’s events. “I have autism and a lot of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] from my childhood. I was abused a lot,” says the younger man. “Those attacks and being called names, it is hard for me.”

They dislike the term “migrants” in reference to themselves. “We are in the European Union,” says the Hungarian. “We are citizens of the EU, but people look down on us, blame us for problems just because we are not from Ireland. In all my eight years here, I have not seen so much racism as in the last few months. There is a very nasty racism. I feel it every day, this rise of nationalism.

“But imagine if all the foreign people left Ireland, all the Google, all the doctors, all left this country. What would happen? It would be worse than the famine. It is sad. Not everybody is the same, but we should not hate each other because of this.”

They are unsure what they will do now. “I really don’t know what to do,” says the older man. “We are thinking about the next steps.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times