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Game of Thrones star joins ‘Refugees Welcome’ demonstration in Dublin

More than 300 people took part in the ‘Northside Welcomes Refugees’ protest organised by the Northside For All community group.

Actor Liam Cunningham (c) with Maynooth University academic Rory Hearne (l). Picture: Rory Hearne/Twitter

'Refugees Welcome' protesters on Fairview Bridge. Picture: Gary Gannon TD/Twitter

Martha Ní Riada

Allison BrayIndependent.ie

Hundreds of people converged at the Fairview footbridge in north Dublin on Wednesday evening for a ‘Refugees Welcome’ protest.

The protest was organised to counter anti-immigration demonstrations that have taken place outside refugee accommodation centres in the capital and elsewhere in Ireland.

More than 300 people took part in the ‘Northside Welcomes Refugees’ protest organised by the Northside For All community group to show solidarity for refugees and asylum seekers who have been targeted by right-wing activists holding protests outside accommodation centres in East Wall, Ballymun, Co Cork and other centres nationwide.

Among those in attendance last night were local people and politicians, anti-racism activists and Game of Thrones actor Liam Cunningham.

'Refugees Welcome' protesters on Fairview Bridge. Picture: Gary Gannon TD/Twitter

Chanting “no hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here” the protesters cheered as a steady steam of motorists honked in solidarity as they drove under the bridge.

Clontarf resident Mairead White, a spokesperson for the community group, said they were delighted with the large turn-out of ‘normal everyday people’ from the community despite the biting cold at teatime.

“We wanted to show the normal northside people,” she told Independent.ie.

"We want to speak for who we are. We all have worked and been in the community for years and years and there are so many diverse people in this community and we just really want to show that,” she said.

"We’re very proud of our community and there is so much support (for the asylum seekers),” she said.

She criticised people protesting outside accommodation centres.

"Equality and diversity works better together than fear and hate and we’re certainly not getting anything else from these groups,” she said.

Fairview resident Martina Buggle (42) brought along her seven-year-old son Charlie to the protest because she said: “I think it’s really important to learn from a very young age that you have a responsibility not just for yourself but to your community and the wider global community.”

Ms Buggle said she has witnessed the protests against asylum seekers in the area and “it’s really hard to see that.”

"It’s really disturbing and it’s really scary and it’s playing on people who have been marginalised and vulnerable and feeding them information that’s not correct,” she said.

"It’s not the representation of the community here. It's really important that we’re welcoming and we’re supportive and that we recognise the privilege that we have of the country that we are born into that we have the freedoms that we have and we need to extend that to others.

"It’s really important that we show what we’re about.”

Ms Buggle’s brother Michael Stanley (49) added that it’s time to set the record straight on the anti-immigrant protests.

"I think a lot of people have been hoodwinked and manipulated by various nefarious actors out there. This far-right crew is getting more and more organised but people with an opposite view are similarly organised,” he said.

"I still believe they [far right activists] are an absolute miniscule part of the population.

“Rallies like this and hopefully more rallies like this in the future will show the authentic feelings of the vast bulk of the population in north Dublin, south Dublin and neighbouring counties and indeed the whole island because this is the real picture.”

Martha Ní Riada (23), who is 'the Education Officer at UCD Students’ Union, braved the bitter cold and travelled from her home in the southside of Dublin to support the counter-demonstration.

Martha Ní Riada

She said it’s not just refugees and asylum seekers who are being targeted but anyone from a visible minority background is a target.

She has heard reports of foreign students being subjected to racist and discriminatory bullying – especially amongst students seeking accommodation.

"We’ve had students come into us with reports of landlords saying the most unbelievable racist stereotypes to them and they don’t feel safe in their homes,” she said.

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