Ethnic minority students and those from outside Ireland have shared feelings of fear and anxiety that have followed anti-immigrant riots which shook Dublin city centre last week.
Speaking to Trinity News, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union International Students Officer Eduarda Werneck said: “When the rioters were yelling awful things about immigrants, they didn’t mean people who came from Spain or Germany, they mean anyone who looks different from them and who isn’t white Irish.”
“I have personally never felt more like an outsider before”, she added.
“People say ‘Ireland isn’t like that’, but when you don’t look like you are from here you do suffer microaggressions quite often, and overall racism is quite normalised everywhere.”
Werneck emphasised that supports are available to students who may still feel the shock of last week’s events, pointing to TCDSU Ethnic Minorities Officer Hamza Bana and Welfare and Equality Officer Aoife Bennett, as well as College’s own resources if students find themselves at “serious risk”.
Bana, the union’s ethnic minorities officer, has criticised college’s response to last Thursday’s riots in Dublin.
In a statement to Trinity News, he said: “In light of last week’s riot, a lot of people felt unsafe returning to campus, especially POC. This is not the first time the immigrants of Ireland have been targeted by the public.”
“So after last week’s riot, with words like ‘kill all immigrants’ being thrown around, many POC felt like they had a target painted on their backs.”
“What really makes my blood boil is Trinity’s response to the riot, reopening college like a normal working day with no option for online learning and leaving students asking their lecturers or friends for recordings”, he added.
Bana said that the decision demonstrated the provost’s and College’s “lack of concern for the non-white passing students on campus”, and added that although a second far-right gathering did not occur “the rumours of such a thing happening, especially after such a riot, should’ve been considered to be more of a threat by Trinity”.
“Shame on them”, Bana concluded.
Responding to Bana’s comments a representative for college said: “We made clear in all communications on Friday that no student would be penalised if they were unable to travel to lectures.”
“An email has been sent to alert students to a series of special student support sessions, run in conjunction with student counselling services, which will be taking place in-person in the Global Room and online starting Thursday, November 30.”
Bana’s comments were echoed by Trinity’s Indian Society who, speaking to Trinity News said: “While we credit Trinity for rising to the occasion and offering protection and sustenance to the people stuck on campus, we must call them out for their hypocrisy.”
“Surely a college that shuts down for possibilities of weather warnings could close its doors to stand in support with their student body that they conveniently boast about being so ethnically diverse”, the spokesperson for the society continued.
In addition to the union officers, societies representing student minorities on campus widely condemned the far-right activity.
The Korean Society said: “The riot on Thursday was alarming and caught us in shock.”
“The safety of our members was a priority, and making sure our members knew that we are here as a community and their support system was key to lessen worry and unrest amongst ourselves.”
In a statement to Trinity News, College’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) President Hasan Ali first expressed “absolute horror at the stabbings that occurred in broad daylight on Parnell street”.
“I pray that those injured reach a full recovery, particularly the innocent 5 year-old girl whose family must be feeling absolutely broken from what had transpired.”
“Conversations can, and should, be had in a civilised manner, where nuanced political debates can take place in a constructive manner. That is not what occurred on O’Connell Street later that day.”
“I believe that everyone, regardless of political viewpoint, would dissociate from the abhorrent rioting and looting that took place”, he added.
Ali also told Trinity News that last Thursday night was the first time in his life where he was made to “seriously feel like ‘the other’ in Irish society”.
While acknowledging that he could only speak to his own experience, he said: “Having been born and raised in Ireland, I never felt the need to prove myself as a proud Irish citizen, but now I feel as though this will not be as readily accepted.”
Ali identified “ignorance and fear towards [Islamic] cultures and belief systems” as a contributor to the events of last week, and urged all members of the college community to reach out to the MSA with questions, “no matter how basic or uncomfortable”.
“It is through such conversations that we will truly come to know that there is much more that unites us than that which divides”, he concluded.