Anti-immigrant camp in Dublin 'not about racism', residents say

In the nation of 'Cead Mile Failte' (a hundred thousand welcomes), the residents of Coolock want to shut the door.

They've set up an anti-immigrant camp in the north Dublin suburb, outside a disused factory earmarked to house asylum seekers.

With green, white and orange, they're staking claim to this ground, their protest tents bedecked with dozens of Irish flags.

Car horns blast every four or five seconds, in response to a large poster reading: "Beep if you support Coolock."

Their other roadside banners state: "Community concern over 1,000 male migrants being housed in this building" and "Irish lives matter".

The camp is occupied 24 hours a day, with young men guarding it overnight and residents of all ages during the day.

Two elderly women, two younger women and half a dozen men of various ages were on site when we arrived.

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Sean Crowe, who describes himself as "a concerned parent", said: "Coolock's message is we don't want them here, we just don't want them, end of story.

"We have our own gangs and trouble going on that we can't sort out. The place is bad enough as it is."

"It's just going to put more of a strain," the father-of-one added.

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Asked how he would reply to those who describe protesters as "racist", he replied: "It's not about racism.

"It's about the strain it's going to put on the community and local amenities around the place.

"That's all it's about, concerned parents."

The camp at Coolock is just one of several that have sprung up across the Republic in the past year.

In several places, like Newtownkennedy in County Wicklow, the tension has reached breaking point, with public order police officers deployed.

"We fear they're going to do the same thing here," said one protestor at Coolock, who wished to remain anonymous.

"If the Gardai [Irish police] attempt to shut down our peaceful protest, all hell will break loose here," she added.

With the sun shining and the smell of meat cooking on their barbecue, it had a community feel about it.

But they're fiercely critical of their current government and you can sense that the tension isn't far beneath the surface.

"Eighty percent of them are crossing the border from Northern Ireland and they knew that would happen," Sean told me.

"It's time to close the border" are not words you expect to hear, when Ireland fought hard to keep it open.