Around 300 people attended two separate demonstrations in Buncrana on Sunday afternoon, one welcoming refugees to the town and the other criticising mass immigration into Ireland.
Stronger Together, which billed itself as a welcome event to celebrate inclusion and provide a welcome for people who have recently arrived in Buncrana, was held at the Shore Front at 2pm.
Around 200 people attended and heard a series of speeches from Des Boyle, a member of the Buncrana/ Inishowen Palestinian support group, Paul Kernan from the Donegal Intercultural Platform, Ruth Garvey Williams from The Exchange, which hosts a weekly intercultural café, and Don McNeill, a Canadian who has lived in Buncrana for more than two decades, as well as some more recent arrivals from African, Arab and South American countries.
Des Boyle attacked ‘wannabe fascists’ on social media who say taking in refugees is a threat to Irish culture and way of life.
“There’s nothing sinister in welcoming people who are vulnerable and broken,” he said, “but there is something sinister in trying to create a culture of fear based on lies and ignorance and racist bile.”
He said emigration by Irish people to other countries had enriched those societies, and people who immigrate here will similarly enrich Irish society.
“Diversity is beautiful, it is life enhancing, and we are here today to confirm that core ethical value.”
He warned people in Buncrana who are genuinely concerned about making ends meet, or about where homes will be found for their adult sons and daughters against making scapegoats of immigrants and refugees.
Later in the afternoon, around 100 people gathered at the Market Square for what was billed as a Peaceful Assembly and also heard a series of speeches from Kim McMenamin and Des Glackin.
Mr McMenamin said the refugee families who have moved to Buncrana are ‘beautiful people’.
“We aren’t racist,” he said of the people who attended the rally.
“These other people are our brothers and sisters. And these other people deserve better, they don’t deserve to be warehoused or human trafficked around the country.”
Mr McMenamin said mass immigration into Ireland was being done under the cover of the Ukraine war which he said was a lie.
He said profit and money are the only reasons the Government is accommodating asylum seekers around the country.
Referring to the covid pandemic which he said destroyed businesses Mr McMenamin, a Chinese medicine practitioner and regular columnist with the Inish Times, said: “Instead of a virus, now it’s terrorism.
“Terrorism by people from other countries who are criminals, and we have it on good [but curiously, unnamed] authority they were let out of prison, coming here for the benefits and the money to see how they can get their criminal activities going.”
Gardaí maintained a low-key presence on the fringes of both demonstrations.