By Christine O’Mahony
Over 30,000 people from various organisations took to the streets to spread love and solidarity last February. This solidarity action took place due to the sudden rise in far right popularity, who have organised their own protests and have spread misinformation about the refugees living in Ireland. While most of these far-right immigration protests have taken place in Dublin, there have been a few protests in Meath, organised by a group called, Meath Says No To Open Borders. In the past these protests were viewed as harmless, but those involved in these far right rallies have been caught setting fire to direct provision centres, beating up homeless asylum seekers and terrifying children residing in emergency accommodation and hotels.
The far right anti-immigrant groups have claimed that they speak for 90% of people in Ireland. Anti-Racism organisation with the solidarity group Le Cheile refuting this claim.
Everyone involved marched under the banner of IrelandforAll DiversitynotDivision during the protest. Le Cheile claimed that they wanted communities in Ireland to stand against hatred, division and the scapegoating of minorities for government failures. The demonstration got support from the National Women’s Council, MASI, AKIDWA, INAR, Irish Refugee Council, USI, Fórsa and much more.
Veteran Civil Rights Campaigner, Bernadette McAliskey, asked the people in attendance “Which side are you on?” with the question directed at politicians, the state, churches and organisations. She referenced the Gorta Mór (The Famine) when debunking the claim that “Ireland is full”, a claim repeatedly pushed out by the far right. She said that Ireland’s population right now is smaller than it was before The Famine, therefore Ireland could not be full. Christy Moore wowed the crowd by singing Anti-Fascist song, “Viva la Quince Brigada”.
People Before Profit’s Darragh Adelaide said that instead of protesting refugees, “we should be protesting Billionaires and Vulture funds.” He also said “Ireland belongs to everyone who calls it home”.
Irish Mental Health Activist Blezzing Dada focused her speech on mental health and suicide prevention. “affording housing is suicide prevention, LGBTQIA+ acceptance is suicide prevention, Universal healthcare is suicide prevention, support for BIPOC is suicide prevention, anti-discrimination laws is suicide prevention, fair wages and good working conditions is suicide prevention, abortion access is suicide prevention and empathy is suicide prevention”.
“We have all been failed, there is not one community here that has not been failed,” Irish Traveller Activist Rose Marie Maughan said in her speech.”The recent protests against people seeking international protection and the misinformation are truly shameful and disturbing. It is not who we are as an Irish nation”.
Activist Ailbhe Smyth was pleased with the huge turnout, it was estimated that over 30,000 was in attendance and there have been claims that actually it was over 50,000. She claimed that the huge turnout has sent a “huge message” to the government.
A Le Cheile representative told protesters at the end of the demonstration that this was only the beginning and that they had more solidarity actions planned and urged people to join them.
“Which side are you on?,” Bernadette McAliskey said. “Are you on the side of humanity, decency and equal rights, or are you on the road to fascism?”