How racism, privilege and a 'discursive vacuum' cloud the controversial issue of immigration

Listen | 22:42

For months now, the number of people protesting the housing of asylum seekers in their local communities has continued to rise.

One third of all protests in Dublin last year were about immigration, but what do the participants actually want and do they have legitimate concerns?

While many protesters seek to distance themselves from the far right, some do engage with the xenophobic rhetoric and misguided fears around “unvetted” single men coming into their communities.

So, are their primary concerns really around a lack of resources? Or, is the increased pushback against housing asylum seekers more connected to our fear of the ‘other’ and an underlying racism that we, Irish people, are reluctant to acknowledge?


And, are politicians and the media shying away from having a real discussion about the changes immigration can bring to local communities?

Dr Barry Cannon and Dr Shane Murphy from Maynooth University have investigated the demands and motivations of anti-immigrant protesters across Ireland and found that far right groups continue to take advantage of the discursive vacuum left open by Government officials.

However, the “deep rooted racism which exists, not just in our society, but in every western society” also plays a role, says Dr Cannon.

“The economies of the West were built on imperialism, and racism was almost invented to justify the imperialist project. It’s not difficult to tap into that historical racism that exists in our societies and I think the far right plays on that too.”

“But at the same time, all these resource complaints are based on fact – communities have been neglected, there is a lack of housing, there is a lack of services, so trying to separate the two is very difficult.”

Presented by Sorcha Pollak. Produced by Aideen Finnegan and Suzanne Brennan.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast