When the pandemic hit, there was a sort of pause on the independence marches and rallies that Tegan and I had joined in Glasgow. Through a combination of habit, introversion, ADHD, and some version of irritable bowel syndrome, I haven’t gone out a whole lot since then, and while I’ve been getting out a bit more in recent months, I’ve not gotten back into activism. I also haven’t put in the time and effort to learn about Irish politics. I was aware that there were fascists around, but it didn’t feel like the same kind of problem it was back in the US. In my first couple months here, I scraped off all the stickers they had put up on signposts around town, but they have yet to be replaced. I had also noticed the hashtag “Ireland is full” trending on Twitter pretty regularly, but I had also seen one guy claiming credit for that, and outlining how he went about using bots and the like. Add in my effort to make a living through writing (I’d love to see more small donations at my Patreon), and it was easy to become a bit complacent.
Well, now I’m paying attention. and working to catch up.
Last night, a bunch of right-wing extremists held a hate rally against maybe a couple dozen asylum seekers who, lacking real housing, had set up an encampment near the relevant government office. After counterprotesters left, the Gardaí, Ireland’s national police force, apparently wandered off while the encampment was set on fire. The residents had been evacuated earlier, because of the danger, so as far as I can find out, nobody was hurt in the fire.
There are a number of refugees in Dublin from Ukraine and elsewhere, waiting on their asylum applications, and while some are in hotels, a sizable number are not, and have joined the city’s population of unhoused people. They’re being used as scapegoats by the far right, as usual, who blame them for crime, and a shortage of homes and jobs in Ireland. These are all real problems, of course, but with a number of vacant buildings around Dublin, including apartments, it’s not the immigrants causing the problem – it’s a system that values profit over human life.
That perspective isn’t encouraged by capitalists, of course, and it’s downright repugnant to people on the far right, so they lie, preach hate, and attack those with the least power to fight back. From the day before yesterday:
Asylum seekers living in a makeshift Dublin city campsite are ‘afraid for their lives’ after several violent attacks.
Video footage emerged on social media this week showing a violent scuffle at a shanty town housing International Protection applicants, which has appeared in the capital in recent weeks.
And last night the Garda Public Order Unit, along with dozens of gardaí, attended the scene of another protest at the site.
They stood between a group of anti-refugee demonstrators and counter-protesters who chanted ‘refugees are welcome here’.
The stand-off continued for around 90 minutes before gardaí escorted one group away.
Despite the strong garda presence at Sandwith Street last night, a spokesman for the force said: ‘We have no reports of any incidents from this location.’
The incident comes after people living in the makeshift camp, and volunteers at the Sandwith Street site, were on high alert yesterday afternoon following a confrontation between the residents and anti-asylum protesters on Thursday.
One of the residents was struck in the face and sustained bodily injuries after being hit with part of a metal fence.
The camp has been targeted numerous times in recent days, and more protests are expected later today.
At around lunchtime yesterday afternoon, a small number of men and women confronted the inhabitants yet again.
One homeless man from Bolivia said that he arrived at the camp earlier on Friday.
However, the 31-year-old man, named Jhonnes Dante Valverde, admitted being very nervous about being targeted by protesters.
‘I don’t understand why so many people want to attack us,’ he said. ‘All we’re trying to do is build a community for protection because we have nowhere else to go. We’re not bothering anyone and yet there are people who want to force us out.
‘Yes we’re afraid for our safety and even our lives, but my only priority now is to take everything day by day.
‘It’s very hard because I’ve sent nearly 70 CVs all around the city and haven’t got any answer,’ he said.
One volunteer who did not want to be named believes the asylum seekers’ safety is at ‘a huge risk’.
‘They’ve already injured one man here, but if they stormed the place, no one would have a chance.
As you can see, it’s a pretty tidy setup, and very clearly out of the way, and not causing any problems. As quoted above, they’re forming a community for the same reason as most homeless people – they’re subject to violence and harassment, and there is safety in numbers. Hell, it’s the same reason all of us form communities – because life is better working together, than trying to go it alone.
None of that matters to fascists, of course, so last night, they held another rally. There were anti-fascist activists there, using their bodies as a barricade between the fascist mob and the asylum seekers, but they were severely outnumbered, and not being allowed to leave. It appears, based on tweets from one of the mob’s leaders, that the Gardaí may have agreed with the mob that if they let the antifascists (and presumably any refugees with them) leave, they’d look the other way while the fascists “removed the tents”
I think it’s worth mentioning, for those who don’t know, that Ireland’s population hasn’t yet recovered from the Great Famine, so we know for a fact that there is room for more people than currently live here. There may well be a housing shortage, beyond the artificial one caused by greedy landlords, but there is zero question that the housing situation is solvable. I don’t know enough about recent Irish politics and history to say what’s going on for certain, but this problem certainly feels familiar to what I’ve written about back in the US.
So, the refugees and the counterprotesters left, and the cops apparently left as well. As a result, these peoples homes and belongings were burned by a fascist mob, apparently with permission from law enforcement:
The end result of the destruction of the asylum seekers encampment tonight in Sandwith Street, Dublin 2. pic.twitter.com/IE2Lr4Mios
— Ireland against Fascism (@IrlagainstFash) May 12, 2023
For those who can’t see it, the tweet contains a video showing the same dead-end alley as in the picture above, with the tents and furniture all in flames.
From what I can tell, the Gardaí were there or nearby, when the fire was started, and multiple people reported the arson attack, and were apparently ignored. What’s more, the fascists held another march today, celebrating the attack from last night:
Gavin Pepper who egged on the thuggish youths that smashed up the asylum seekers encampment in Sandwith Street last night & praises their destruction today at IFP hatefest. He tells the far-right sympathisers that 'Ireland is for the Irish' to cheers and applause 🙄🤡 pic.twitter.com/JC5BqvebYD
— Ireland against Fascism (@IrlagainstFash) May 13, 2023
As I said before, there is a real problem here, and the one thing Gavin got right is that the government is to blame for its continued existence, as well as the larger problem of homelessness. Poverty is a policy choice, and in capitalist countries, it’s almost always maintained for the benefit of those who exploit others for profit. The fascists have no solutions, and at least for the leaders, they want no solutions. If every immigrant left Ireland tomorrow, they’d find new scapegoats, like non-white Irish citizens, or Travelers.
The reason the far right is able to gain so much ground, is that liberal governments also don’t have a solution to these problems, because they’re too wedded to capitalism to actually solve the problem, and so it continues, and other problems like fascism feed on it and grow.
Until June, I’m still primarily focused on the novel, but I’m paying more attention to what’s going on around me, now, and I’ll be writing more about this.
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