Editorial: An Ireland of welcomes

THERE has been widespread shock and disgust at an attack on a makeshift camp in north Dublin where a small group of homeless people of different nationalities had been living.

Masked men with dogs, sticks and a baseball bat arrived at the encampment in a wooded area on the banks of the Tolka river at Ashtown on Saturday afternoon.

They reportedly shouted at the migrants, who came from countries including Poland, Portugal and India, to "pack up and get out now". Gardaí are investigating an alleged assault.

By chance an Irish Times journalist had just been interviewing some of the camp residents about their situation and it is possible the media attention prevented an even more serious attack.

Those living there have since left and been receiving support from homelessness services.

There have been reports of intimidation previously at the site and concerns about a wider increase in racist and anti-migrant rhetoric, particularly on social media.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the reports from Ashtown as "very disturbing", saying it has "the feel and look of essentially a racist attack".

The Republic's integration minister, Joe O'Brien, also spoke of his disgust and said he he has "never been more worried about the safety and security of migrants in the country than I am now".

Protests have been held in several cities in recent weeks about the housing of asylum seekers, with concern growing that far-right voices are whipping up fears.

It has not helped that the state has been struggling to find enough places for refugees to stay in, forcing people onto the streets.

Having welcomed almost 100,000 people from Ukraine and other countries last year, Mr Varadkar warned recently that the government "cannot guarantee accommodation for everyone who comes to the country unannounced".

It is vital that authorities get a grip of these issues, and give clear and timely information to the public, if malign elements are not to be provided with opportunities to sow distrust and spread disinformation.

However, what was hugely encouraging in the wake of the Ashtown attack was the response of ordinary people in Dublin who gathered in large numbers in the area to voice their opposition to racism.

It remains the case that the vast majority of people in Ireland, an island with a long history of emigration, are welcoming to those seeking refuge and the strong message must go out that acts of intimidation or racism will not be tolerated.