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Home / News / Online posts shed light on camp clearance

Online posts shed light on camp clearance

For years, tension has been growing around immigration and accommodation for migrants. On Saturday, the issue ballooned once again online, and political pressure increased.

The events of that day shine a light on several issues related to the lead-up to the clearance of the camp, while details audible on protesters’ livestreams provide insights into the dynamics between groups of people who opposed the use of it for migrant accommodation.


Early on Saturday morning, more than 100 male homeless asylum seekers were moved without warning from Mount Street in Dublin city to the site of a former HSE nursing home at Crooksling, near Brittas, in the foothills of the Dublin-Wicklow Mountains.

They had been living in tents in a growing makeshift camp around the International Protection Office, without showers, toilets or other basic facilities.

At 10.30am, RTÉ News arrived at the Mount Street site. Volunteers who had provided support to the men in recent weeks were there. By then, most of the tents were empty, and had been cut through with a single slash.

Tents cleared for removal at Mount Street

Communication

To the volunteers or men there had been almost no communication, and it was unclear where the men had been taken to. Many of the men later said they did not know where they were being brought, or to what type of accommodation.

Around the same time, videos were appearing online of buses arriving at Crooksling.

At 10.18am, a video taken from a car approaching the entrance to the Crooksling site was published on Twitter. It showed two coaches stopped outside the gate, and men departing them carrying bags of belongings.

“Crooksling 10am Saturday two buses full of migrant males forced into another community #EnoughIsEnough,” said the text accompanying the tweet.

One of the first responses to that tweet was a video of a young person screaming ‘Get them out!’ into a microphone. Another, at 10.47am, was simply an image of a hand sparking a cigarette lighter.

The Crooksling site was the subject of an arson attack on 4 February, after it was mooted as a location for housing asylum seekers. It was just one of about two dozen fires which have been linked to accommodation for migrants in recent years.


Read More: ‘Mapped: The fires linked to accommodation for migrants’


At 11.20am, the Department of Integration, which had been liaising with Dublin City Council about the intended move, confirmed via press release that the men had been brought to Crooksling. It said at Crooksling tents would be provided.

By then, volunteers were combing through what remained of the Mount Street site to collect personal belongings and possessions, while at Crooksling, several anti-immigration protesters were gathering outside the gate.

The asylum-seeking men and volunteers had been unaware of where they were being taken, but word had been circulating among anti-immigration groups on Telegram and Facebook for days.

Social media amplification

On the previous Wednesday, administrators of a community Facebook group for the Brittas area reposted a quote from a message received earlier. It simply said, “7.31pm: We have been informed today that there will be 150 Males placed in Crooksling this weekend to reside in the buildings that have not been affected by the fire.”

Screenshots of that post are soon circulating on Irish Telegram groups where anti-migrant content is published constantly.

In one of the most active Telegram groups, one person shared an image of the Brittas Facebook post and added “This location needs another attack.” In reply, someone said “bringing these creatures in is criminal.”

Over Thursday and Friday, according to an Irish anti-immigration livestreamer who would later turn up at the Crooksling site, messages were circulated to encourage people to turn up and prevent asylum seekers accessing the area.

By noon on Saturday most of the men had entered, and some had already decided to leave to return to Dublin. Some members of the media and a group of anti-immigration protesters were outside.

The move from Mount Street to Crooksling was leading the news agenda, and being discussed across radio programmes.

On Saturday with Colm Ó Mongáin on RTÉ Radio 1, Fianna Fáil Senator Mary Fitzpatrick was asked by the host ‘is this cosmetic because it’s St Patrick’s Day weekend?’

She responded saying “I don’t know, but the reality is that it is completely unacceptable for anyone coming to our country seeking asylum or refuge to be accommodated in a tent on the side of a street.”

“That begs the question,” replied Colm Ó Mongáin, “if they are moving from ad hoc pitched tents to ad hoc pitched tents, why move them? At least in the city they have access to amenities…”

“Well, they don’t access to toilets, to proper hygiene facilities, to cooking facilities…”

At that moment at Mount Street, a grapple truck was clearing what was left of the makeshift camp.

A grapple truck at Mount Street

Up at Crooksling, the main entrance gate was partly open and inside a small group were speaking to a number of Gardaí. People had begun arriving who attend protests across Dublin and Ireland.

Local concerns and regular protesters

In livestreamed footage one man walked through the entrance gate and a local woman turned to him to ask ‘who are you?’

He responded with the same question, to which she said “I’m a local.”

“We’re locals as well,” the man claimed. He then proceeded to criticise her and other locals who oppose the site being used for migrant accommodation for not being proactive enough.

“Yiz all should have been out this morning, every single f*cking one of yous. Yiz were warned. Look at all these coming from Mount Street” he said, gesturing towards several asylum seekers sitting nearby, “all the scabies in Mount Street.”

Tension initially grew between the local people who oppose the use of the site for migrant accommodation for a variety of reasons – many of whom are in their 50s and 60s and older – and the people arriving who also attend anti-immigration protests across the city and country.


Listen back: Saturday with Colm Ó Mongáin – 16 March


It was soon also directed elsewhere.

A TV camera operator filming the entrance from down the road was threatened. “If you take any more shots we’ll smash your face in,” he was told by a man with his face covered. At the time, the camera was positioned beside a Garda jeep, which had the windows open.

Three Garda members inside didn’t intervene. By this point, about ten asylum seekers carrying plastic bags and backpacks were also hanging around the area, seemingly waiting to leave for Dublin city centre.

Soon after, one Irish man roared into the face of an asylum seeker “go home to your own country! Our kids are going to suffer because of this!”

The asylum seeker told him in heavily accented English to f*ck off, before a third man with a Middle Eastern accent asked the Irish man to stop screaming.

“Stop screaming? I’ll scream if I want!” he responded.

By 2pm, many of the asylum seekers had left the entrance to the site, some had begun walking in small groups along the roads toward Dublin. Others took the bus or lifts in cars.

A group of locals and another group of anti-immigration protesters remained outside the site gate.

An elderly man in a flat cap standing beside his friend with a walking stick beckoned one of the anti-immigration protesters towards him.

“Turn that camera here to look at me,” the elderly man said. “Now…” he said, “I am a local here, not like you c*nts. Now, f*ck off.”

His friend with the walking stick laughed and asked the man holding the camera if there was anything he did not understand.

“We represent the 90%,” one of the group responded, before walking off.

Tents at Crooksling

Moments later, as one of the anti-immigration protesters continued to livestream, another approached him and others standing nearby.

“Can I just say something about the local residents now? F*ck them.”

“F*ck them all, yeh,” one of the group responded. “We could be out protecting our own families, we could walk away now and let it all happen.”

‘Threatening and abusive behaviour’

Soon after, most of the locals began to disperse. By now it was about 230pm and members of the media who had been reporting from Mount Street were nearing Crooksling.

One photographer arrived and was quickly surrounded by anti-immigration protesters. “I’m telling you now, it’s going to come to an end for you,” one of the group said to the photographer.

“Are you threatening me?” asked the photographer.

“I show you what a threat is, I’ll show you what a f*cking threat is,” the man replied, as he placed his left hand over the photographer’s camera lens while holding his own camera phone to shoot video of the photographer with his right hand.

Nearby Gardaí watched on.

A few minutes afterwards, a van driver leaving the Crooksling site through the gate paused and shouted abuse at the group of anti-immigration protesters. The group immediately approached the Gardaí present and claimed they had been subjected to threatening and abusive behaviour.

On foot of that, a member of An Garda Síochána asked one of the protesters to show him images containing the van’s license plate.

Soon, the protesters too began to disperse.

Inside on the site, asylum seekers were setting up rows of tents on plastic flooring.

Back at Mount Street, others were recreating what had been torn down that morning.


Additional reporting: Eleanor Burnhill


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