Anti-Refugee protests reject far-right ties despite strong connections

Muiris O'Cearbhaill

National Party Sponsored Banner reading "House the Irish. Not The World." being carried in Ballymun last week. Credit: @NationalPartyIE on Twitter

Traffic came to a standstill last Thursday in Dublin city after multiple anti-refugee protests were held around the city. These anti-refugee protests have sparked much backlash from political figures, local communities and national media. 

During the fourth organised protests by local political groups and residents, the demonstrators blocked traffic on the Ballymun Road, the port-tunnel in East Wall and slip roads on and off the M50. All blockages caused major delays around the northside of the city.

Six locations were chosen for demonstrations where the protesters believed that multiple male migrants were being held, including Ballymun, Drimnagh, East Wall, Finglas, Sheriff Street in Dublin and Athy, Co. Kildare. 

The protesters demonstrated during the first weekend of the year after misinformation was shared on social media that a large group of undocumented and unvetted male refugees were being held in Ballymun’s Travelodge Hotel. 

Many local residents expressed anger towards the government and their politicians as the community were not briefed on this action beforehand which led local activists to organise demonstrations directly outside the facilities.

Demonstrators in Ballymun claim that upwards of 300 male migrants are being held in the Travelodge Hotel, where the first large demonstration took place. A trend in claims can be seen with malinformation being spread that all of the refugees are men of military age who are fleeing their country to evade prosecution.

The Department of Integration told that there were currently 221 refugees staying at the Ballymun Travelodge and that it was made up of families, couples and singles, with nine children currently staying at the facility.

Before Thursday’s protests began, local Gardaí arrested a man near Athy after terrorist threats were made to the facility by the individual. Gardaí said that this man was known to them and served 18 months in prison in 2001 after the Special Criminal Court determined he was a member of the IRA.

Gardaí believe this man was one of the main organisers of the Athy protest, where mostly African refugees are being held including 17 children, 21 women and three adult males.

Videos of the multiple anti-refugee protests were published online which showed the crowd chanting “Get them out!” and holding banners and tri-colours with “House the Irish” written on them. Many social media posts were accompanied with the hashtag “Ireland Is Full”.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien spoke to reporters last Tuesday, claiming he was “very disturbed” by the actions and the footage of the protesters. 

Minister O’Brien’s full statement. Credit: RTÉ News.

Minster O’Brien said, “People have a right to protest, but in the appropriate place. They don’t have the right to intimidate people either. We’ve been a welcoming country and rightly so. We know from our own history what it’s like for people to leave our own shores.”

Thursday’s protests saw an elevated level of violence with clashes between the protesters and counter-protesters occurring across the towns. One video shows People Before Profit TD, Gino Kenny, getting into a physical altercation while counter-protesting. 

People Before Profit TD, Gino Kenny, getting into a physical altercation while counter-protesting. 

An anti-refugee protest in the Ballyfermot area saw demonstrators show up at ex-Lord Mayor of Dublin Vincent Jackson’s home. Vincent was not present at the residence at the time however, his family were still inside.

Demonstrators show up at ex-Lord Mayor of Dublin Vincent Jackson’s home in Drimnagh.

People Before Profit Councillor for Ballyfermot and Drimnagh, Hazel De Nortúin, posted a video of protesters who were directly seeking her in Ballyfermot on Thursday night. In the video, the protester claims that Cllr De Nortúin was one of the organisers, something which the Councillor denied.

Posting on Twitter on Friday morning, Cllr De Nortúin said that the protests were “A clear attempt to attack local Cllrs” and said that using her name and place of work was “crossing a line”.

Far-right political groups, such as The National Party and the Irish Freedom Party, began to get involved in the protests, despite many residents and speakers claiming they were not. According to residents of Ballymun who attended the protests, the far-right groups had no such involvement with the organisation of the protests.

Mark Egan, a local Ballymun man, also claimed to this writer that the reason many were protesting was due to reports that men, who are housed in Ballymun facilities, were harassing young women in the local area. The College View is unable to confirm these reports.

Egan spoke to the crowd during another demonstration last Monday on the Ballymun Road. Egan began his speech by condemning national media coverage who he said were labelling the crowd as far-right protesters.

Egan said, “I’m willing to bet, 100%, my last f**king cent, that there’s not one racist here among us… Ballymun is not a cesspit. Ballymun is not riddled with fascists and the far-right and Hitler.”

However, a National Party member and Dublin Bus driver, Máirtín O’Baoighealláin (Martin Boylan) spoke to the crowd during the very first organised demonstration. O’Baoighealláin said, “What’s wrong with putting your own people first? From your own country.” 

The bus driver, who previously refused to drive a bus with an opposing political advert on the side in 2019, condemned local politicians who he believes supports mass immigration to “undermine job security”. O’Baoighealláin claimed, “There is no housing crisis, there’s an immigration crisis.”

O’Baoighealláin finished his speech by leading another “Get them out” chant with the crowd.

The National Party, who have called for a stop to all immigration and have previously promoted a White-Irish Ethno-State, continued to post videos and images of the crowds, who gathered in Ballymun. 

Images of banners with ‘House the Irish, Not the World’ written across them appeared on their social media, which were also being used to promote The National Party and encouraging others to join on their website.

In a statement to The College View Egan said, “I’ve been attending the protests since the first one on Saturday after I came across a couple of social media posts about the student accommodation in Ballymun being suddenly changed from student use to economic migrant usage…”

Egan added, “I was asked by one of the concerned parents to speak out tonight to counter the narrative that is being pushed in the national media that we’re all a pack of racist ideologs with sinister intent when really the truth is we’re a community that just wants our public representatives to acknowledge our legitimate concerns.”

Members of the Irish Freedom Party, who hold a similar stance on immigration to the National Party and also promote Ireland leaving the European Union in what they call ‘IreExit’, have also openly promoted the protests on their social media platforms. 

The Party said on Twitter, “We encourage people to get involved in protests that are nearest to them tomorrow. Send a message to the political establishment. #IrelandisFull #Irishfreedom.” and attached information on protests being held in many areas around Dublin.

The Irish Freedom Party call the arrival of asylum seekers to Ireland a “plantation” and claim that the current housing and hospital bed crisis is due to immigrants coming to Ireland. The College View were unable to find evidence that backed up these claims.

The party’s president, Hermann Kelly who previously worked for Britain’s ‘UKIP’ as a press secretary and as a journalist, urged the party’s members on Twitter to “Stand up for your country. Don’t accept a New Plantation which is colonisation without consent. Bring yourself, your family and friends.”

Egan claimed in his speech that Ballymun had been taken advantage of by the government and that the “400 men”, who the crowd believes are being housed in a student accommodation complex, are from countries who believe women are “property”.

Videos were posted on various social media platforms and shared around the community. The videos seen on TikTok, posted by user @gael_32_, captured a bus with a large group of males set to be housed in the Travelodge Hotel in Ballymun.

The owner of the account told The College View that the video, with over 300,000 views at the time of this publication, was taken by them and claimed it was “doing the rounds”. The account confirmed they are local to Ballymun but refrained from commenting on any political affiliations they have.

The account was banned from TikTok for breaking the platform’s community guidelines soon after corresponding with this writer.

Another video posted on the @gael_32_ account showed another large group of men who were entering another facility on Parnell Street in Dublin City. The man behind the camera claims in the video, “They’re all men. All these f**king men coming in. Not one girl.”

This facility, known as ‘Dublin City Dorms’, was later vandalised and subjected to heavy damage, with images of the damage ending up online.

Local social groups, clubs and politicians from both Government and Opposition in Ballymun released a statement on Thursday evening. The statement was released to “…stand in solidarity with the vast majority of Ballymun in opposing the abuse and hatred directed at refugees and asylum seekers in Ballymun over the last few days.”

The statement, signed by TDs Róisín Shorthall (SD), Paul McAuliffe (FF), Dessie Ellis (SF), and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Caroline Conway, condemned the protests and claimed the abuse has been orchestrated by far-right groups.

DCUSU published a statement on Twitter last Friday also condemning the anti-refugee protests and invited students to contact them if any of them had been impacted by the protests.

Despite widespread outrage by political figures and facts that dispute the groups’ claims, more protests are said to be planned around the city for the coming weeks and misinformation is still being published by far-right groups on social media.

Muiris O’Cearbhaill

Image Credit: @lockie2003, @HazelPBP, @RTEnews and @NationalPartyIE on Twitter