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‘Ask yourself who is actually at these marches’ – Philly McMahon urges locals to reject protests against refugees


Philly McMahon wants the people of Ballymun to reject anti-refugee protests. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Philly McMahon wants the people of Ballymun to reject anti-refugee protests. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Philly McMahon wants the people of Ballymun to reject anti-refugee protests. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Former Dublin footballer Philly McMahon says recent anti-refugee protests held in Ballymun do not reflect the attitudes of most people from the area.

The Ballymun Kickhams clubman believes strongly that the community has been let down by successive governments – a frustration which he said was shared by many.

He said local volunteers were giving a “huge amount” of time and effort every day to ensure the development of the area moves in the right direction.

However, he is concerned that narratives put forward in recent weeks by certain “far-right” groups threaten that progress.

The first in a series of protests against the provision of refugee accommodation in Ballymun was held at the start of this month, but Mr McMahon argued that many of the people who attended the initial demonstrations were fed “misinformation”.

“If those people who actually do community activism – because they see there is a problem in their community – if those people aren’t at that march, that gives you a good indication [to say] ‘hold on, who am I surrounding myself with?’,” he said.

“If those [community activists] aren’t there, well, then you need to ask who is there? And then you see people who you’ve never seen before speaking.

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“I had a lot people messaging me since I put up that post saying, ‘I felt I was getting manipulated.’ It was basically scaremongering.”

Seeing the division being created by the demonstrations, Mr McMahon posted a message on Facebook, asking people to explain why they joined
the protests.

He said the majority of people who raised concerns said they were uncomfortable because the asylum seekers who were placed in Ballymun were “single, unvetted males”.

In response, he explained that in many cases they are not “single men” but rather “unaccompanied men” who have fled conflict zones to find somewhere safe where their families can join them.

“Imagine if Ireland was in a war, who would you put on a dinghy to go across to the UK? Would you put your mother, wife or kids? You’d send the young male to go over and set things up,” he said.

“They’ll take the risks and then look for reunification of the family.

So, ‘single, unvetted males’ was a big piece of misinformation.”

Mr McMahon also contacted people who responded negatively to his post to ask them whether they would like to discuss their concerns and to hear from some of the asylum seekers directly, so they could learn more about “why they are here”. Out of 10 people he contacted, one was open to the idea.

Mr McMahon is part of the Ballymun For All group and said he “couldn’t be prouder” of the people and organisations who made up its membership.

“I would love Ballymun to be a place that welcomes people. Because we have been judged for so many years, that if you’re from Ballymun you’re a criminal or whatever, I think it’s unfortunate that now we’re falling into the trap of judging people,” he said.

“I know of one family who are in a hotel and the mother is due to have a baby in the next couple of days, and she was looking out her window at the protesters. I can imagine what that woman’s going through and that’s not Ballymun people.”

Mr McMahon said there has been a “turn” in attitudes recently and the protests had substantially reduced in size.

“People are starting to educate themselves about who’s there,” he said. ​

“I’d ask the people who were at those protests, come and get involved with Ballymun For All. I would hope that this brings the community tighter together,” he added.

“If you have frustrations, let’s get together and let’s actually help those areas. There could be an opportunity from this diversity in our community, it’s important that people understand that.”