The home of a Sinn Féin TD has come under firebomb attack after he defended the rights of immigrant asylum-seekers. Party leader Mary Lou McDonald condemned what she said was a “very deliberate and targeted attack” which she described as a “deeply serious and sinister development.”
The attack has been blamed on volatile far-right elements who have emerged in recent years on Irish social media. They have been capitalising on a series of controversial decisions by government officials to house asylum-seekers in very conservative rural areas.
There were protests earlier this year against proposed centers in Oughterard, County Galway, and in Roosky on the Roscommon-Leitrim border, where an empty hotel planned as a center was twice set on fire.
A separate plan to temporarily house asylum seekers at a hotel in Achill is to go ahead despite local anger. Some 13 female asylum seekers were due to arrive at the remote Achill Head Hotel outside Keel on the island on Friday, but their arrival has been postponed due to protests.
In Ballinamore, County Leitrim, local Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny has found himself on the front line of race hate after his car was set alight in a row over a local apartment building getting listed as a potential centre for the accommodation of asylum seekers.
TaoiseachLeo Varadkar described the incident as an “attack on democracy”, but he has so far refused to suspend the policy of locating ‘direct provision centres’ in rural areas.
The centres have been strongly criticised by human rights groups for providing refugees with only minimal housing and sustenance in conditions similar to open prisones. Their location has appeared deliberately designed to stoke maximum controversy.
Sinn Féin and the Green party have both been at the receiving end of hate mail for standing up for the rights of refugees. Mr Kenny told his local radio station last week that he had received death threats after he spoke out in the Dublin parliament against those “whipping up hysteria” about asylum seekers.
In an appeal against increasing racism, he warned of a “far-right ideology that is being peddled in this country”. He told the Dáil that “fear-mongering discussion about being overrun has become common and acceptable language.”
Mr Kenny has described the arson attack outside his home as “traumatic and difficult”. The TD for Sligo Leitrim said that nobody should have to experience those events.
Awakened by “flashing lights” and “a hissing sound” at 2.15am on Monday, he said he saw flames “licking up as high as the roof”. Speaking on radio, the party’s justice spokesperson said if his burning car had been closer to his house, it would have melted the house’s doors and windows.
Mr Kenny urged people to “take a step back, take a deep breath and realise that there are consequences to everything we do and say”.