‘Nefarious groups’ seeking to misuse community concerns about immigration, Minister says

Protests held in Dublin’s East Wall in recent days over plans to accommodate refugees

“Nefarious groups” are seeking to misuse communities’ concerns about immigration and housing to further their agendas, the Minister for Integration has said.

Roderic O’Gorman pointed to online activity that has emerged in the last week and said incidents where people have “aggressively” questioned international protection applicants are “deeply concerning”.

“I don’t think that represents these communities and I don’t think it represents Ireland’s wider response to people fleeing conflict,” he said at the Oireachtas Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

There have been two protests in Dublin’s East Wall in recent days over plans to accommodate refugees in a former ESB office building. Local politicians have said there was a lack of consultation with the community in advance of asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Nigeria and Somalia being moved there.


The Minister told TDs and Senators that 62,000 people have come from Ukraine to Ireland since Russia invaded the country in February and said the latest estimates suggested this could rise to 72,000 by the end of December.

Overall, he said, 55,000 people from Ukraine are expected to require assistance with accommodation from the State. This is in addition to 17,000 asylum seekers from other countries, a large increase on previous years.

Mr O’Gorman said local authorities are to put out a fresh call for vacant properties that could be used to house people and that the €400 monthly payment to households that host refugees is to be doubled to €800 from next month.

He told the committee that the significant increase in the numbers seeking international protection meant buildings were being repurposed for short-term accommodation.

He said the site in East Wall had come on stream in the last few days and the department was in the process of communicating with the community there. An “extensive leaflet drop” is to take place on Wednesday and this would include information on how many people will be living in the building, the committee heard.

Mr O’Gorman also said the State is ending the use of tents to house asylum seekers and that some of the people being accommodated in East Wall were previously in tented accommodation in Athlone. He said there are 310 people staying in tents.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns said there are small groups of people “intentionally spreading fear and discord” about the arrival of refugees and asylum seekers.

“I know that these groups don’t represent the vast majority of people in Ireland or the East Wall communities,” she said.

Ms Cairns said that blaming refugees for situations with housing and waiting lists needs to be condemned “in the strongest terms”. She suggested that protests should happen at Leinster House rather than locations where asylum seekers are staying.

Mr O’Gorman said he agreed with her comments about “the misuse of concerns by certain nefarious groups”.

Dublin South Central TD Patrick Costello said he was concerned that genuine problems in Ireland are “being exploited in a very deliberate way by an aggressive, dangerous far right element in this country”.

“Behind the crisis is a very real challenge in terms of housing policy,” he said, adding that issues in the system for accommodating refugees would never be addressed without solving the housing crisis.

Mr O’Gorman said that in places where concerns have been raised by a community, his department “will always do everything we can to address that”.

“We’ll work with communities in East Wall and in other parts of the country to address concerns,” he said. “There’s examples of people aggressively questioning international protection applicants, using their phones, trying to provoke them and the like. I think that is deeply, deeply concerning and I don’t think that represents these communities.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times