A section of Pembroke Road. C: Baron Nethercross / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

What happened when an asylum centre was proposed in Ballsbridge? 

In the past few months, it’s become apparent to everyone not pushing an agenda that the government – and its entourage of well-padded NGOs – have made a complete shambles of the country’s immigration policy.

Bussing in hundreds of unvetted migrants without consultation has led to locals protesting in a growing number of communities, and to a rising anger and disquiet across the country which the establishment is anxious to dismiss as “far-right” sentiment, despite polls showing a significant majority of Irish people supporting a cap on the numbers of refugees.

An Irish Times poll showed that a whopping 84% of respondents agreed that “there is a limit to the number of asylum seekers and refugees Ireland can cope with” – and another 60% expressed concern that “too many asylum seekers and refugees might come to Ireland”.

This week, on Virgin Media, a poll by ‘The Tonight Show‘ showed 90% of people are unhappy with the government’s handling of the refugee crisis.

The establishment, desperately scrambling to blame anyone but themselves, are now reduced to old-fashioned pearl-clutching as they decry the people of East Wall or Drimnagh or Ballymun for protesting and saying supposedly terrible things like “house the Irish” and “get them out”.

So we have the Green party Lord Mayor blaming the ‘far-right’ for the upset in Ballymun, and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien (who can’t get houses built) saying the protests are ‘disturbing’, while Fine Gael Minister Josepha Madigan, observing from Mount Merrion, says the protesters  were “a  small, loud minority who do not represent the views of the community.”

With respect, how would she know? And why should any Minister or any politician feel they can tell people how and where and when they can protest, once such protests are law-abiding.

The same tactic was tried against the people of East Wall by those who want to insist that already disadvantaged communities bear the brunt of an unsustainable number of migrants being housed in a country already experiencing a savage housing crisis.

People are castigated for “shouting” or “chanting” or behaving in any way that’s not acceptably middle-class. They are told to go to the Dáil (where they can be happily ignored) or to write an email so that TDs can send a pro forma response while hoping that the situation sorts itself out.

The protesters know this, and have pointed out that the government is yet to place 300 or 400 unvetted migrants in a centre in Howth or Killiney or in Dublin 4.

But, as it happens, the government did propose opening a reception centre for asylum seekers in the swish Dublin suburb of Ballsbridge, an area where enormous houses share space with embassies and where you could happily fit an extra refugee or two into most family homes.

The plan by the Department of Justice was to open the asylum centre in a 50-bedroom former guest house on Pembroke Road. In fact, the building had been leased and operations had begun.

No doubt Darragh O’Brien would have been relieved that no-one in the “grand terraces” of the area, as the Pembroke Road Residents Association describes it, stooped to making placards or shouting slogans.

But they weren’t having an asylum centre in their area. One resident had already circulated a letter which claimed the area was “becoming saturated with unwanted elements who are a threat to the settled community”.

So they lawyered up.

The Residents Association, numbering in their ranks at least one Senior Counsel, headed for the High Court. And the government folded like a cheap suit.

As the Irish Times reported at the time:

“It is understood that under the settlement, the Pembroke Road Residents’ Association dropped its High Court action and the State agreed to stop housing asylum-seekers in the premises that it had leased.”

“The association began its legal action last April, seeking to quash the Government’s decision to house asylum-seekers in the reception centre on the grounds that there was no planning permission, and that An Bord Pleanala had already refused permission for its retention as a guesthouse. It challenged the Minister for Justice’s decision to make an emergency order to convert the premises.”

That was that. No-one in power called the people of Ballsbridge racist or condemned their actions. No-one accused them of being unfair or unwelcoming or nasty or mean.

But the truth is – and Darragh O’Brien knows this – that the residents association might as well have stood outside the guesthouse chanting ‘get them out’. Actions, after all, speak louder than words.

In Ballsbridge, they have the money and clout and connections to “get the migrants out” without raising their voices. But we shouldn’t pretend the intent isn’t exactly the same.

And if women in Dublin 4 or in Malahide felt sexually threatened or unsafe because of the behaviour by a group of migrant men, no-one would ignore their complaints. They’d be on Morning Ireland and Prime Time and their powerful friends would have it sorted in jig time.

But when women in Ballymun say that they feel unsafe – and make the perfectly valid point that, because so many so-called asylum seekers destroy their documents, they have no idea who is coming to live amongst them – they are called “scumbags” and told to shut up by the virtue signallers on social media.

(Funny that: in a time where people lose their minds over any infraction of political correctness, it still seems perfectly fine to most of the hardline woke to openly sneer at and disparage people who live in less-affluent areas or who didn’t have the advantages they enjoy, although said privilege might have only earned them a degree in grievance studies or journalism).

The Ballsbridge barricade happened in 2000 – almost 23 years ago – but the government learned from that.

Their policy now is to just bully the people who can’t afford lawyers instead. They don’t even do communities like East Wall the courtesy of an announcement or a letter in the door. They can’t afford Senior Counsels. Feck them.

Of course, the wealthy communities (who often see refugees as cheap labour for their childminding, catering or other businesses) don’t always need to lawyer up. Sometimes, if they want people kept out, they can just turn to politicians like the supposedly horrified Josepha Madiagn.

In 2014, Ms Madigan, then seeking a Fine Gael council seat, objected to the development of a Traveller site in her affluent constituency, saying it would be a “misuse of taxpayers’ resources”. She later told the Irish Independent that “It’s not about me. There are other residents here and whether or not they would want to live beside a halting site.”

“Everybody has different views. Some people won’t want to live beside people in halting sites,” she said. “Some people are of the opinion that there might be more crime, that there might be anti-social behaviour.”

Right. Doesn’t really sound like #MountMerrionForAll now, does it? Perhaps an NGO might set up an astroturf association in the constituency to ensure more diversity in South County Dublin.

The people of Finglas or East Wall or Drimnagh or Ballymun are already raising their children in areas which have been neglected and under-resourced for decades. They don’t have the legal resources to seek justice in the High Court.

So they take to the streets, and block traffic, and picket buildings, and chant slogans instead, which is their right. More power to them.

But the polite political establishment can stop pretending: when they or their powerful friends go to law, or use their political muscle to prevent or reject asylum seekers or travellers in their areas, they are saying exactly the same thing that they condemn working people for saying: ‘get them out’.

The hypocrisy is evident. And, despite the choreographed media condemnation, it is fooling no-one.

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