By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
No level of consultation would have made a difference in some areas where protests have taken place against housing asylum seekers, Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman has said.
Protests have been held in Waterford, Cork and areas of Dublin in recent weeks where refugees or asylum seekers have been accommodated.
Gardai are also investigating an alleged assault at a campsite in Ashtown, Dublin, where migrants had been living for months, and a suspected arson attack on a disused school in Dublin that had been rumoured to be used for migrants.
Among concerns raised by local people is that they had not been consulted about dozens of migrants being moved into their community, as well as a lack of services to provide for a larger population.
Politicians have argued that a lack of engagement from authorities in some cases has left a vacuum for misinformation to grow and false rumours to spread.
Mr O’Gorman said the department is under such pressure to house people that it is forced to “move rapidly”.
He told RTÉ Radio: “We’ll look to increase our department’s ability to provide information when we’re opening new international protection accommodation, but I think it’s also important to say in some of the examples that we’ve seen in recent weeks… it’s clear that no level of consultation, no level of engagement, would have changed the outcomes.
“We’ve seen a building set on fire as a result of a rumour, an untrue rumour. We’ve seen migrants attacked again as a result of an untrue, online rumour.”
He said it is not his department’s policy to refrain from informing local communities when migrants are to be housed in the area.
He added: “When we’re opening new accommodations, we brief elected reps, we brief the local authority, and that’s how information is provided – to elected representatives in a particular area.”
Mr O’Gorman said a vacant hotel in Lismore, Co Waterford, would still be used to house international protection families this week despite a protest of 200 people held outside the building at the weekend.
He said the hotel has not been used in seven years.
“It’s important to say we’re not taking a hotel out of use, we’re actually using a building that hasn’t been used for a long period of time,” he said.
On Tuesday, People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said he believed Ireland is in “a very dangerous situation” in relation to the far-right and the spread of “very racist, divisive, hateful ideas”.
He warned: “I think we are on a trajectory for someone being very seriously injured or killed.
“Obviously there is a lot of attention about the threats to politicians and so on, and that’s appropriate. But the truth is, the most likely person to get seriously hurt or injured or killed is going to be a migrant.
“That is the trajectory of things.”
An anti-racism demonstration is due to be held on Saturday, February 18th at 1.30pm at Parnell Square in Dublin, which will take on the message of several community demonstrations in support of housing migrants, under the banner “Ireland for All”.