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Local residents and right-wing activists among crowd as protest resumes against East Wall asylum accommodation

Independent.ie logo Independent.ie 26/11/2022 Maeve Sheehan

A crowd of between 200 and 300 people attended a protest in Dublin’s East Wall on Saturday, the latest in a series of demonstrations against the moving of asylum seekers into an old ESB building.

The crowd of mostly local residents were addressed by amongst others, a former independent councillor Malachy Steenson as well as members of the right-wing Irish Freedom Party.

The protest was the latest of several demonstrations staged in the north inner city community this week following a decision to accommodate a large group of asylum seekers in an office building without prior consultation.

The organisers, a local committee led by Mr Steenson, a solicitor, suspended the protest to facilitate a meeting between two government ministers, Paschal Donohoe and Roderic O’Gorman, and a local committee on Friday. They resumed the protest after that meeting ended without a resolution.

Mr Steenson, who describes himself as a republican socialist, said he was one a committee of seven local people who met the ministers. He said the group gave the government seven days to move the asylum applicants out and close the building.

The group was led to believe this won’t happen. Speaking ahead of today’s protest, Mr Steenson told Independent.ie that the group will continue to protest.

“This facility will close,” he said. The issue is a “national issue” not a local one, he said, adding: “People are contacting us from all over the party. This is now national movement that is emerging.”

The protests began last week when local people learned that almost 400 international protection applicants had been moved into a disused ESB office on East Wall Road.

Local people said they had not been consulted, and the occupants of the building were not garda vetted.

Caroline Gilchrist, a resident of East Wall, said that it was not right that so many people had been moved into a tight knit community without any prior consultation. She said she was concerned that if a solution was not found, young people in the area would take matters into their own hands.

Her friend, who asked not to be named, said the community is not racist.

“The problem is we are a small community, we have accepted other people… These people were brought in here with no consultation, none of us was told anything, none of us was notified. We don’t know anything about them,” she said.

The Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said in a stataement after his meeting with residents of East Wall had “raised very important and sensitive matters in a direct and appropriate manner”.

Alan Farrell, Fine Gael TD for Dublin Fingal, said the Government and the Fine Gael party are “committed to providing safe refuge for people fleeing war and oppression", he said.

Extremist groups are preying “on people's insecurities" with what he described as "divisive" rhetoric.

“Our country is at its best when we are open, inclusive and compassionate,” he said.

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