‘We had the National Party here and we told them to bugger off’

Residents at Aungier Street, Dublin have been protesting nightly over a decision to move 200 asylum applicants to the area

Every night since last Sunday residents from the Aungier Street area in south-central Dublin protest by occupying the centre of the road.

Their demonstrations are monitored by gardaí who block off the road on either side causing considerable traffic disruption in the city centre at rush hour.

The gatherings are an intergenerational event with children in buggies and their mothers joining elderly people in protesting at the Government decision to house 200 International Protection (IP) applicants in the area, 120 in The Staircase, an old hostel, and 80 in a redbrick building next to the Dublin Business School.

Approximately 30 to 40 locals gather every evening at around 5.30pm. When the bells of the Whitefriar Street Church strikes 6pm, they pack up their placards and head home. The protests are not marked by the menacing atmosphere of intimidation which have accompanied similar protests nor by outside actors seeking to stir up trouble.


“This is a local protest. That is the way we are keeping it. We had the National Party here the other night and we told them to bugger off. We told them, ‘We don’t want youse here’,” said Tony Brien.

“It is a community based. There’s no roaring or shouting, there’s no intimidation. We are just letting the Government know we are here. We are going to cause as much disruption as we can over the coming weeks.”

Mr Brien said their protests were not racially motivated. “We have no objection to women and children and families. It has nothing to do with race, it is nothing to do with skin colour. It’s about single, undocumented men being brought into this country and dumped in working class areas.”

Mr Brien said he and other residents approached the Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman about it when he recently visited a childcare facility in the area. “He told us that we [Ireland] were obliged to take them under international law.”

Donna Collins who turned up with her mixed race son Jordan added: “As you can see I’m not racist. I’m married to a foreign national. We don’t have problems with foreign nationals.”

Her problem was with the phenomenon of international protection applicants destroying their documentation on arrival in Ireland.

“The Government needs to change that law. Anybody who destroys their documents must be held responsible and deported immediately. If they changed that law, communities wouldn’t care,” she said.

Issues around accommodating asylum seekers and managing applications and deportations have been under review by a Cabinet committee. Minister for Justice Simon Harris told last week’s meeting that there are more checks on aircraft for people who may have destroyed documents in transit, and gardaí have resumed travelling on some flights.

Deportations have resumed and there is a major push to deal rapidly with the asylum cases of people who are coming from countries deemed safe, resolving such cases within three months.

Meanwhile, the Department of Children has warned of a severe shortage of accommodation, particularly for single men, with officials prioritising available space for women and children.

Mr O’Gorman wrote to Ministers last week seeking large vacant buildings like sports centres or conference facilities where “camp beds, mattresses, sleeping bags could be set out for people”. His Cabinet colleague, Minister for Sports Catherine Martin, wrote to sporting organisations under her department seeking buildings on Friday.

Aungier Street is blighted by dereliction and is one of the most dilapidated streets in Dublin despite its proximity to the city centre. The Staircase is located in a long row of three-storey properties that have been derelict for years and could, if developed, provide accommodation for hundreds of people.

Local man Roddy Lawlor said there are three homeless hostels in the area that are tolerated, but the latest decision was a step too far. “We had no consultation about this whatsoever. We probably wouldn’t be out protesting if people sat down with us, had a community meeting and told us that they want to put people in here and help us out,” he said.

“We are not racist people. Race is not an issue here.”

Mr Lawlor said that if undocumented single men were being placed in middle classes areas, residents would go to the High Court. “We haven’t got the money to raise a High Court action. This is our High Court action... to stop the traffic and disrupt the commerce around here.”

When the latest protest ended, gardaí cleared away the traffic cones and within five minutes the road was cleared and traffic resumed. The protesters will keep going, they say, until they get what they want.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times