Comment: In Dublin’s ‘fair city’ where the refugees are forced to live in tents …


By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

During the Great Hunger (also known as the Great Famine) in the 19th century (between 1845 to 1852) roughly one million Irish people died and up to two million fled the country in search of a better life.

The memory of what happened is buried deep in the Irish psyche.

The Irish people who arrived in the United States were accused at the time of taking the jobs of Americans. They were also accused of being involved in crime. Does this all sound familiar?

In recent years, we have, once again, witnessed the grim spectacle of masses of people on the move throughout the world because of famine, war, economic misery and torture. Some of them are now living in small tents in the heart of Dublin.

The refugee tents on Dublin’s Mount Street

I went to visit the tents during a brief visit to Dublin last week. The sun shone down on the multi-coloured dwellings which were pitched outside the Irish government’s International Protection Office (IPO) in Mount Street. It was a surreal moment as traffic drifted along the street and office workers strolled by the encampment  – seemingly as if these ‘homes’ were invisible. A garda van, monitoring the situation, was parked nearby.

Two young men were standing outside one of the tents. They were wary of me for good reason as a number of tents were recently set on fire in in nearby Sandwith Street by right-wing thugs.

Eventually we got chatting. One of the men was from Botswana and the other was from Egypt. They have both been homeless for a number of months since arriving in Ireland.

They said that they tried to forget that their ‘home’ was a tent in the street. “We regularly get bricks thrown at us as we are sleeping,” said one of the men.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (who previously served as Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI in Northern Ireland from 2014 to 2018) recently stated that gardai “were not going to fall into the trap” of over-responding to far-right protests against the refugees.

I’m sure that statement was enjoyed by all those opposed to refugees entering Ireland. But it must have sent shivers of fear up the spines of those forced to live on the streets. The refugees are now an integral part of the growing homeless figures. They deserve our support and should not be ostracised or ignored.

Meanwhile, columnists regularly speculate in newspapers, TV and radio on how will the Irish government spend its corporate tax largesse of more than £20bn which was largely derived from US multinationals operating in Ireland. One thing is quite clear though is that the government won’t be spending its bounty on housing the refugees any day soon.

Until a public housing strategy is achieved through struggle these tents will be a potent reminder that the wealthy in Ireland will continue to reap the dividends of a housing policy which benefits them and continued misery for those who are forced to live on the street. House the homeless, Stop the evictions should be our demand. We should stand alongside the refugees as they are a constant reminder of all those forced to leave Ireland during the Great Hunger because of starvation and economic misery.