Politicians fear anti-refugee sentiment will lead to people being seriously hurt or killed

Government urged to do more to tackle issue, including setting up a body similar to Nphet

Anti-immigration protest in Dublin city centre. Photograph: Alan Betson

Politicians have raised fears that the “very dangerous” anti-refugee sentiment being whipped up by far-right elements will lead to people being seriously hurt or killed.

The Government has been urged to do more to tackle the problem, including setting up a body similar to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), which was in place during the Covid-19 pandemic, to co-ordinate the response to the refugee crisis.

It comes amid ongoing anti-immigration protests in Dublin and after The Irish Times reported on how a migrant camp in Ashtown was attacked at the weekend by a number of men with dogs, sticks and a baseball bat.

About 150 people attended an anti-racism and anti-violence protest in Ashtown on Monday evening after a migrant camp in the area was attacked.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said: “We’re in a very dangerous situation in this country now with the rise of far-right ideas ... and the spread of very racist, divisive, hateful ideas.”

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“I think we are on a trajectory for someone being very seriously injured or killed.”

He said the attack at Ashtown, which he branded as a “racist assault”, was on homeless people who are in Ireland legally.

Mr Murphy also raised concern at protests happening in Finglas, which he said have been “whipped up” by the far-right.

‘This is serious. They mean business’: Migrants living in fear as ‘violent atmosphere’ brewing in DublinOpens in new window ]

He said it is “appropriate” that there has been attention on threats to politicians but added: “The truth is that most likely the person to get seriously hurt or injured or killed here is going to be a migrant, be they an asylum seeker or be they even an Irish person of colour, who was walking by a racist mob and is set upon.”

Mr Murphy said Government failures in the provision of housing is being used by the far-right to misdirect anger towards asylum seekers.

He said there are plans for a rally in Dublin city centre on February 18th, with a message of “Ireland for all” to call for a country that is a welcoming place for people fleeing conflict but also has homes, services and jobs for all.

Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said she wanted to express solidarity with the people who were “attacked so viciously” at Ashtown but also with people who have been actively involved in welcoming refugees.

She said there has been a “disturbing escalation” in anti-refugee protests in recent weeks, that there has been a “toxicity” entering the debate with “awful consequences” for vulnerable people, including refugee children whose homes had been the location for protests.

Ms Bacik called on the Government to do more to respond to this.

She said: “It’s simply not good enough that we’ve seen 89 people apparently at the last count, we’ve been turned away from Citywest without accommodation with just a voucher and a promise of an email”, a reference to the closure of the refugee reception centre to new arrivals last week.

She said: “We have sought a centralised co-ordinating body along the lines of Nphet ... we saw during Covid to co-ordinate Government policy and to co-ordinate a public information campaign.”

Ms Bacik said a Labour Party public meeting in Drogheda on Monday night was “invaded and disrupted by individuals with anti-refugee views who tried to shout us down”.

Gardaí attended and the about 20 protesters eventually left of their own volition.

Anti-racism protest takes place in Ashtown after attack on migrant campOpens in new window ]

Her party colleague Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, a former junior minister with responsibility for immigration, said: “What’s happening is extremely dangerous” and “the rhetoric is absolutely poisonous”.

The Dublin Bay North TD added: “We all are particularly worried about what’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks because if it continues as is somebody’s going to get seriously, seriously injured and possibly worse.”

“And I think Government has to hear that message.”

Labour Senator Marie Sherlock suggested that representatives of the big social media companies should be called in by Government given the use of such platforms to spread “very dangerous messages”.

She said: “We see people unfortunately being exploited by people who have no interest in those communities and we need to see a Government response with regards to that.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times