Visitors returning to the inner city in the post-pandemic period have been struck by the rather unsightly spectacle of throngs of Roma gypsy families dominating the Talbot Street and North O’Connell Street area.
That patch of Dublin has been no stranger to Roma colonisation, particularly in the area around Dalymount Park with Roma families inhabiting Georgian streets on the Northside for some time, providing a base of operations for begging operations citywide.
The influx of Roma commenced in the post-Cold War area, with various high profile cases of asylum abuses and illegal migration through Rosslare Harbour being observed. Following the ascension of eastern EU states, the process accelerated with census figures (if they can be believed) putting the number at 5,000 as of 2016.
However, the sheer intensity of the Roma presence, normally consisting of extended families begging, present at street corners in recent months has been a sight to behold, impossible to brush under the carpet for most passersby.
The background to this inundation lies in the state response to the pandemic and the frantic search for emergency accommodation and isolation centres in the initial months of the crisis.
The result has led to a concentration of Roma presence through a series of hotels, guesthouses and state accommodation in the North inner city area by the HSE, NGOs and various state providers.
Identified as an at-risk group alongside Irish Travellers, Roma gypsies were earmarked for specific attention at the outbreak of the crisis. With translation services provided by the HSE, Roma were directed initially to an isolation centre on Nelson Street, due to their specific needs and perceived lack of documentation that made it difficult to send them to Citywest.
The state response to the Roma population and Covid-19 was assessed in a recent report syndicated by the medical review journal Global Health Documentation.
The study documents how through lobbying by the primary itinerant advocacy group, Pavee Point, convinced health authorities of the need to provide specific isolation centres and emergency accommodation to at-risk Roma in Ireland.
With a Roma Response team established by the HSE National Social Inclusion Office in March 2020, health authorities commenced a tailored response for the Roma community factoring in their community disadvantages.
Quoting from the report.
After weeks of networking and negotiation with different stakeholders, the HSE secured a hotel in the Dublin area for the isolation of COVID-19 positive Roma people from all over the country. This service included transport to the facility, as well as access to medical assistance for the Roma people. In addition, COVID-19 resources and information on how to access public services were translated into different languages for Roma from continental Europe, and disseminated through the response team members.
It is believed that this hotel originally commandeered by the HSE is one in the Glasnevin area proximate to pre-existing Roma communities. Alongside pre-existing Roma families living in the North Inner city area, it should also be noted the concentration of Roma support facilities in the vicinity such as the Capuchin Centre and Crosscare Centres and Dublin City Community Co-op.
Sources residing near and working in the area report the daily congregation of Roma in hotels and guesthouses looking to make up the numbers following the effective evaporation of the tourist industry. With allegorical stories of Roma using Ireland as a way station before entering the UK, The Burkean obtained footage of Roma allegedly being taken into public housing accommodation as part of the emergency covid response.
Through on the ground observations and speaking to sources resident and working in the area, The Burkean was able to identify a series of hotels and guesthouses inhabited by Roma families, driven largely by covid response measures.
Located around the Talbot Street, Gardiner Street area as well as state accommodation at St Mary’s Mansions off Sean McDermott Street, the inadvertent effects of the pandemic response has been to create a launchpad for Roma in the North Inner city region.
Central to this and what appears to be a central hub for the Roma community is O’Shea’s Hotel off Talbot Street providing accomodation to numerous Roma families. Upon entering the hotel, visitors are greeted by a health official managing the desk with visible signs of overcrowding evident upon arrival.
The author attempted to inquire about the availability of a room at the hotel over the phone and was met with the response that the hotel was not taking bookings in the immediate future, indicating its current purpose of providing emergency accommodation to Roma families.
A family owned charity owned by the O’Shea hotelier family, the group purchased the Salmon Leap pub in 2014 for €400,000. Social media for the hotel indicates that it has been closed to paying customers since March 2020.
Not the only hotel to be commandeered in the pandemic period, the Central Hotel off Aungier Street played host to largely African asylum seekers following its snapping up by the Department of Justice and operated by Remcoll Capital.
In Ireland the primary NGO concerned with Roma affairs is Pavee Point who in their 2019 Annual Report listed the Department of Justice, Social Protection, TUSLA as well as the Dormant Account scheme as its primary contributors.
The fruits of their lobbying activities is laid out in a recent report, which highlighted the NGOs efforts in pressurising the Department of Housing to assist in the providing of accommodation for self isolation as well as the inclusion of ethnic identifiers on the HSPC database.
In an Oireachtas submission, the group underlined the process by which the state forked over accommodation to the Roma community, helping to mitigate the issue of ‘one night only’ accommodation caused by proper documentation among the community.
Any examination of the agents behind mass immigraiton into Ireland reveals an effective alt-government of NGOs, lobbyists, state agencies, as well as community activists pushing on in the shadows to see their will done. The surge in the amount of Roma gypsies in our city, largely facilitated by state support, is yet another testament to this out of control cottage industry.
The initial acceptance of Roma migration into Ireland was a social disaster, more evident as the years went on and numbers invariably balloon. While Dubliners find themselves prisoners in their own city through pandemic restrictions and housing issues we now face the daily spectacle of Roma families living off the government teat.
The phenomenon first observed in rural towns of shady government agencies, unscrupulous hoteliers and property management firms ravaging parishes with Direct Provision centres looks set to perpetuate itself more and more in post-pandemic urban areas.
We are becoming strangers in our city but let’s hope the obnoxious presence of Roma gangs begin to jolt a few of us from our political slumber.