Hundreds of people turned out to a rally in Dún Laoghaire, south Co Dublin on Saturday afternoon to support asylum seekers.
The march, which was organised by the Dún Laoghaire Welcomes group, was attended by a number of local politicians, activists and representatives from trade unions including Fórsa and Siptu.
A number of anti-immigration protests have taken place in Ballybrack in recent weeks, following the accommodation of about 140 asylum seekers in the old Senior College Dún Laoghaire building on Eblana Avenue.
The family home of local Independent councillor Hugh Lewis was also attacked earlier this month, with a rock thrown through a window and a note “warning” him to “stop supporting refugees”.
Mr Lewis no longer lives at the address, which is the home of his 78-year-old father, who was watching television at the time.
A minute’s silence to remember singer Sinéad O’Connor, who was originally from Glenageary, was observed before those gathered marched from outside the People’s Park, down Queen’s Road, on to Marine Road and in to the town before coming back to the main entrance of the park.
Chants of “céad míle fáilte – Dún Laoghaire says welcome” rang out while people carried signs reading “say no to hate and fear, yes to humanity and respect”.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the vast majority of people in Dún Laoghaire and Ballybrack were “not racist” or “far right”.
“They are good, decent, generous people. Sadly, a small minority have sought to whip up fear, division and promote lies and prey on people’s anxieties and fears. That’s what’s happening,” he said.
The Dún Laoghaire TD said while people were right to be angry about the housing crisis, the cost-of-living crisis and the state of the health services, refugees and asylum seekers should not be blamed.
Cllr Lewis said his father was “in good form” and had the “same spirit and resolve” of the people gathered at the march.
He also said the people of Ballybrack were not “racist” but instead suffering from a lack of services and housing.
Seamus Dooley, the Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), said the “campaign” that had been directed against migrants had been presented as “an issue of the right to freedom of expression”.
“We’re saying the right to freedom of expression is not the same as the right to hate or to spread hatred,” he said.
“In that context, we absolutely believe in the right to freedom of expression and the right to protest, but when that is misrepresented as a message of hate then we felt we had to come here today.”
Mr Dooley also said that Iconic Media Group needed to clarify its position and make a statement in relation to an article, generated by artificial intelligence (AI), about refugees published on a number of its regional media websites earlier this week.
The article, which originally had the headline, “Opinion: Should refugees in Ireland go home?”, was published by Iconic Media’s digital titles such as Limerick Live and Tipperary Live.
The headline was later changed to “Can we trust artificial intelligence?” while the byline on the article said it was “AI-generated”.