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Protests over East Wall asylum seeker centre suspended as minister agrees to meet locals

Cllr Nial Ring said residents’ representatives would be asking the minister for more details about the people being housed in the building

Cllr Nial Ring

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

A Dublin City councillor has said that protests over an asylum seeker centre at East Wall have been suspended.

Cllr Nial Ring said this evening’s protest had been cancelled as the Minister for Integration is due to meet with residents on Friday to discuss their concerns.

Hundreds of people had already attended two previous protests that were staged to oppose plans to convert an old ESB building into an emergency accommodation centre.

While a lack of consultation around the move had been described as “concerning”, fears had also been expressed about the involvement of “far right” elements in the protests.

The former office building is being used to house up to 380 men, women and children who arrived in Ireland seeking international protection.

“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,” Cllr Ring said.

Cllr Ring said residents’ representatives would be asking the minister for more details about the people being housed in the building.

This would include where they are from, how long they will remain there and whether the building is fit for purpose.

He said the protesters also wanted to know whether the asylum seekers had been ‘Garda vetted’ which is usually reserved for people who work with children and vulnerable adults – and not usually applied to anyone who arrives in the country.

According to Cllr Ring, protesters were also interested in finding out whether the building has a valid change of planning permission and appropriate fire cert.

“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 is pleased 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.”

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder yesterday that he was “concerned” by some of the language used by protesters at East Wall.

And earlier, Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon had claimed right-wing fringe groups were “whipping up hysteria” about the housing of the asylum seekers.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne on Tuesday, Mr Gannon said that “nefarious movements” with “clear anti-immigrant views” are taking advantage of people in East Wall with genuine concerns about the plans.

He said that the protests on Saturday and Monday are not “reflective of the people of East Wall or Dublin as a whole” and are causing people to send anger “in the wrong direction”.

“Fringe elements of the far right – people who would have very clear anti-immigrant views who are whipping up a hysteria in the area - are making people have a sense of fear of the unknown,” he explained.

“I think that’s what manifested itself last night and on Saturday. I don’t want to see those scenes again. People have a right to seek international protection in this country.

“Those people who are being placed in an old ESB building – they're not taking up any other spaces in this country. They're here seeking sanctuary and refuge, and we have an obligation to meet that.”

Mr Gannon also pointed out that concern surrounding the lack of background checks on asylum seekers, a fear being widely spread by far-right groups, is “not realistic”.

“They’re talking about the vetting. People who are coming here from other parts of the world, they’re here seeking sanctuary.

In a statement, the Department of Integration said the building would house families and single people on separate access-controlled floors.

It said officials would continue to engage with and provide information to local representatives and would be “providing more information directly to the community in the coming days”.

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