Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon was speaking after hundreds attended protests in Dublin’s inner city to oppose plans to house refugees
The politician was speaking following two protests in the capital that saw hundreds of people oppose plans to convert an old ESB building on the East Wall Road into an emergency accommodation centre.
The lack of consultation around the move has been described as “concerning”, but fears have also been expressed about the involvement of “far right” elements in the protests.
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.
“If somebody comes here from Afghanistan, for example, who are in an international protection system, they’re not going to be able to be vetted.
“We’re not going to contact the Taliban and ask them for a background check on a person. That doesn’t happen. It’s not realistic.
“But it’s being whipped up by far right and fringe movements in this country who are making those claims.”
He added that the people of East Wall should have been informed of the change in use of the ESB building by the Government.
“In the space of that gap not being filled by the State, who could have sent around a letter explaining what was happening, that space was filled by more nefarious movements who were able to take advantage of that and whip up a sense that the Government were once again mistreating the people of the inner city.
“There is a real sense that the people of the inner city have for generations been left behind. But if the State doesn’t inform people what is happening in their constituencies these (far-right) groups will step in.”
It comes after Taoiseach Micheal Martin agreed there should be consultation with communities about accommodation but reminded the public that the country is dealing with a “very significant” refugee issue.
“There should be consultation,” Mr Martin said. “But that said we have a very significant issue in terms of migration, not just in Ireland but across Europe.
“First of all, we have an unprecedented number of people having to flee Ukraine because of the brutal war that Putin is raging. And Putin wants these type of issues to arise in societies.
“He is weaponising migration, Russia are bombing infrastructure … to, in many ways, provoke more people to leave Ukraine.
“And that’s clearly the agenda over the winter period, as well as the weaponisation of food and the weaponisation of energy, which has led to the energy prices increases and the energy crisis more generally. So as a society I would appeal that we hold this together.”