Ballymun resident Father Peter McVerry has proposed establishing “safe zones” to prevent protests within 100 meters of reception centres for asylum seekers and refugees.
The veteran residential activist described recent protests at such centres, including the Travelodge in Ballymun, which houses more than 200 migrants, as “worrying” and “shameful”, but did not believe they were representative of the Ballymun community.
“I haven’t been up there and I haven’t spoken to anybody from Ballymun in relation to the protests,” he said. “From my knowledge of the people of Ballymun, I don’t think the protests represent them. I think most people are just getting on with life. There have been refugees in the Travelodge for years and there hasn’t been a whimper out of the community. So I think the protests are being led by the anti-immigrant, right-wing parties,” reports Irish Times.
One means of dealing with the protests, he said, could be the introduction of “safe zones” around shelters, similar to those that will be set up around centers offering abortion services. The Health (Termination of Pregnancy Services [Safe Access Zones]) Act 2022, currently under consideration by the Oireachtas.
The bill would also introduce a crime of harassment, punishable by a fine or imprisonment in case of summary conviction.
“There is legislation to ban anti-abortion activists protesting near abortion providers. Maybe something like that could be introduced to stop these worrying protests right outside people’s homes,” Fr McVerry said, reports Irish Times.
Asked about her opinion on the hotel residents’ enthusiasm for the protests, he said: ‘I think it’s a disgrace. These people have already suffered terribly. Many of them are fleeing persecution, death and now some people are making them believe they are not welcome in Ireland,” reports Irish Times.
He didn’t think poorer communities were more vulnerable to anti-immigrant sentiment than others.
“If this was in Blackrock or Shankill, you’d get the same protests. But I do think people in Ballymun who feel society doesn’t give a damn about them are just passing that on to the refugees,” reports Irish Times.
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