Hundreds of local residents, trade union and social activists held a demonstration in northwest Dublin this evening to denounce what organisers say was a racist attack on a nearby migrant camp at the weekend by the far-right.
round 200 protesters gathered outside the Ashtown railway station in solidarity with a group of migrant men who have been living rough in a tent encampment along the banks of the Tolka River on the River Road who were set upon by a group of men on Saturday.
The group arrived with four dogs, including a German shepherd and an American pit bull terrier, and armed with sticks and a baseball bat, threatened the residents.
One of the men is alleged to have assaulted a young Polish man with a baseball bat who has been camping at the site since last year.
He is among a group of around eight who are living in the camp after becoming homeless for various reasons.
The attack was witnessed by a journalist who asked why they were there and was told one of the residents had been involved in an assault of a local woman.
But former Dublin West TD Ruth Coppinger, who was one of the organisers of the protest, said such a narrative is classic fear-mongering and disinformation that far-right thugs have been spreading on social media recently in order to stir up trouble.
“These men were doing nobody any harm. They weren’t taking our houses, they were living in tents,” she said.
“I just want to say that the housing crisis is at the bottom and the root of all of this, that a perfect storm is being created for fascists, neo-Nazis, racists, far right to stir up and try to gain support in a society where you have a cost of living crisis, where you have a housing crisis where people have just come through the pandemic,” she added.
Leisha McDonald (49), who has lived in Ashtown for 15 years, said local residents are aware of the encampment and they have no issues with the men forced to live there.
“We were absolutely horrified, everybody. People were appalled,” she said of learning of the attack.
“These people do not represent the area,” she said of the thugs who attacked the camp.
She said the migrants are “just trying to get by” and many lost their accommodation through no fault of their own and are going to work from their encampment.
“Your heart went out to them, there are many people in this area who are in rented accommodation and face the exact same pressures; landlords selling apartments on and unable to get accommodation in this area, they can all identify with these men and how easily it can happen to them,” she said.
Vicky Adetutu, a 22-year-old student from Clonsilla and an political activist with the socialist feminist movement Rosa, said the right-wing fringes who are stirring up trouble represent just a fraction of the Irish population and do not speak for most Irish people.
As a black woman, she said she is subjected to many forms of racism, some unintentional, but “they do add up,” she said.
Dublin city councillor Ciaran Perry, who represents the nearby Cabra-Glasnevin constituency, said the housing crisis is at the root of various anti-immigration protests outside refugee accommodation centres recently.
“We need to focus the anger on the Government to force them into a position where they are building houses. The simple solution is to build houses.
Stop talking about building houses and just built house and get the people out of emergency accommodation, then we will have accommodation for Ukrainians coming in, for refugees, for people seeking international protection,” he told Independent.ie.
Organisers, meanwhile, said they are hoping to stage a mass demonstration in the Dublin city centre on Saturday week to show solidarity for people who are being victimised by far-right fringe elements as well as to denounce the lies and misinformation they are continuing to churn out on social media.