Further East Wall protests called off as integration minister to meet local residents over refugee center

A protest planned against the use of a former ESB office block to house refugees in Dublin’s East Wall has been called off after Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman said he would meet with local residents to hear their concerns.

protests took place on Saturday and Monday outside the site, with local residents in attendance, but far-right activists were also among the crowd and online encouraging people to attend.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr O’Gorman said “nefarious groups” were whipping up fears around the arrivals as the country struggles to cope with an influx of refugees from the war in Ukraine as well as other asylum seekers.

On Tuesday evening, Independent councilor Nial Ring said a protest planned for Wednesday had been called off, and he distanced local residents from groups with “racist agendas” who had attended previously.

“Right from the start of this PR disaster for the Government, the residents of the area just wanted communication, contact and conversation to get answers to their legitimate questions and address their concerns,” Mr Ring said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

He said residents and representatives would meet the minister on Friday and ask questions about the people who would be housed in the block, for how long and whether the building was suitable.

“These questions could have been addressed much earlier and prevented all the rumours, misinformation and idle speculation, but at least now answers will be forthcoming,” he said.

“The community in East Wall are pleased that there is progress on this and the last thing they wanted was to be ‘lumped in’ with some of the groups who attended the protests with their own sinister, bigoted and racist agendas,” Mr Ring said .

Earlier, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he would meet with residents from the East Wall regarding protests.

Over 300 people attended a demonstration against the center on Saturday, while a large crowd gathered for a second protest on Monday night.

Mr Donohoe, who is a TD for the area, said he is concerned by the rhetoric which was expressed by some people in attendance.

“I am really, really concerned about some of the language that I have heard,” Mr Donohoe told Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder programme.

“Before I describe it as racist, because that’s a very strong term to use, I’m going to engage directly with the groups and residents that have been involved in this because it’s in my constituency.

“The people of East Wall that I’ve had the great privilege of representing now for my third term in the Dáil are enormously decent and an amazingly strong and welcoming community.

“And genuine concerns are being raised by many residents there, regarding the location of this facility and I’m going to engage with those genuine concerns.”

At last night’s demonstration some people could be heard chanting “get them out”, while one individual reportedly said: “The North Inner City’s been destroyed by foreigners.”

Mr Donohoe said there is a “very rich and multicultural and very strong” local community within the north inner city, adding: “I completely reject that kind of language.”

“But what I’m going to continue to do is engage with residents and groups who are raising some of these matters but I’m really clear that some of the language that has been used and some of the approaches that have been taken I do disagree with and it’s not language that I would use and not language I believe many would use,” he said.

“I’ll be making the case for my community, the communities I represent, playing our part in that response and then issues that are being raised by communities that relate to how we will engage with those facilities, I’ve a duty to engage with and I will,” he added.

Earlier today a number of opposition politicians condemned the protests.

Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the protests need to “stop immediately” while People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said while people’s concerns on the housing crisis are “justified” they should not be directed at refugees.

Social Democrat TD Gary Gannon said there are “fringe elements” of the far right involved in the protests.

“In the absence of leadership, in the absence of people seeing their Government and State has their back, they get desperate,” he said.

“Over the last weekend and over the last few weeks, we’ve seen fringe elements of the far right coming in and manipulating people.”

Meanwhile, ahead of yesterday’s demonstration local Fine Gael Councilor Ray McAdam described it as “the worst of Donald Trump type politics”.

“It’s a terrible situation. I’ve seen some of the comments made on social media over the weekend and I’m concerned about the whole far right issue,” he told Independent.ie.

“Some of the comments have been utterly appalling and I reject that type of politics. It’s the worst of the Donald Trump type politics and unfortunately, it’s rearing its ugly head here.

“I understand there are genuine concerns in the East Wall about how this is being handled. There was no prior consultation and there are concerns about the suitability of the premises,” he added.

“But some of those concerns have been drowned out by the hard right.”

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