Days of asylum seekers living in encampments on Dublin streets for weeks are over, says Harris

Social Democrats TD tells Dáil tents appearing in Ringsend and East Wall just hours after Grand Canal stretch cleared

Asylum seekers will not be living in tents on the streets of Dublin for periods of weeks or months due to a new multiagency approach to the issue, Taoiseach Simon Harris has said.

The Fine Gael leader was speaking after an operation on Thursday morning that saw more than 160 people who had been living in tents beside the Grand Canal moved to other locations with food and sanitation facilities. There was a similar operation to move people living in tents outside the International Protection Office on Dublin’s Mount Street last week.

The Government has been struggling to find accommodation for increasing numbers of people seeking international protection. Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman on Thursday said hundreds of beds were being planned for asylum seekers in converted office buildings but these would not come on stream until at least the autumn.

He indicated that proposals for the purchase of large institutional-style buildings, either for refurbishment or in turnkey condition, could be brought for Cabinet consideration before the end of the summer.


Following Thursday’s operation by the Grand Canal, 163 people were moved to Crooksling in southwest Dublin and the site of the former Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum. Mr Harris said it was “an example of agencies pulling together, people not operating in silos and of making real progress”.

The Taoiseach said he had “no doubt other issues will arise but the multiagency response will continue”. He said “the days of people saying ‘that’s not my issue, that’s for that department, that’s for that agency’ – I don’t want to hear it ... This is Team Ireland and this is a real challenge we’re facing”.

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore told the Dáil that “less than six hours after tents being moved” from the Grand Canal they are “actually now down in Ringsend and East Wall”.

Ms Whitmore said “this is clearly not a sustainable solution” as she asked how the Government would deal with the issue “because fencing every single street across the city is not going to work”.

Ms Whitmore said later that some asylum seekers had set up tents in Seán Moore park in Ringsend but had been moved on. It appeared that gardaí were asking those setting up tents to leave, if it seemed any “encampments” were being established.

Ms Whitmore said volunteers had nowhere to recommend for people to go and asylum seekers were afraid for their own safety.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said “it’s abundantly clear that the Government is limping from crisis to crisis” with “no coherent strategy”.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said the tent situation was not good for residents or asylum seekers and “there is a plan resolutely to deal with tents wherever they arise”. He said the Government’s would deal more quickly with applications from those seeking asylum and see through the accommodation strategy it has published as “we do not believe it is acceptable that tents should be in the public realm”.

Mr Harris said he would be chairing another meeting of agencies and departments with responsibility in the areas of migration and accommodation this afternoon.

The Taoiseach also said he wants to get to a point where there is a “much clearer line of sight” on accommodation for asylum seekers, but added: “We do have to be honest with people. I think tents with toilets and sanitation is likely going to be a requirement of our response in the days and weeks ahead.”

He said “that’s very different from encampments” which were “not in compliance with the law” and are “a danger to people’s health and safety”.

The days where situations such as those on Mount Street or the Grand Canal are allowed to develop and last for weeks or months are “over”, he added.

Mr Harris said sites need to be made available for tented accommodation with access to sanitation, adding “that’s an appropriate way that respects the human rights and the dignity of people coming to our country and also ensures that the laws of our land – that you can’t just pitch a tent randomly – are upheld”.

“I’m not naive in relation to this. I understand very clearly issues will arise. I get that. But the difference now is that those issues aren’t allowed fester and those issues aren’t allowed go on and on and on, and that’s the approach we’ll continue to take.”

Mr O’Gorman was asked whether he felt efforts to secure accommodation through the purchase of office or other buildings could lead to a backlash at a time when many are struggling to find homes. He said the Government was providing “basic, basic” levels of accommodation. “There’s no luxury, these aren’t forever homes,” he said.

“It is entirely different,” he said, adding that “this is emergency accommodation, these are not homes”.

Mr O’Gorman and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who were launching their party’s local election manifesto, said the party would be happy to retain the integration brief if returned to Government after the next general election.

“I would take them up again tomorrow,” Mr Ryan said. “You don’t walk away from hard tasks, you step up to them.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times