A friend told me recently about being in New York for a college summer over 20 years ago and meeting an elderly Irish man who had lived all his adult life in the United States.
This man, then in his 80s, told my friend about what it was like to be Irish in America when he first arrived. He spoke of the stigma of walking past signs that read 'No Blacks, No Irish', on the windows of most boarding houses and many potential employers.
The young Irish economic migrants often weren’t sure why they were not wanted; what was so offensive about being Irish?
But they carried on, going where they could, working and living where they were allowed and eventually that hard work paid off and the image and perception of the Irish in America changed radically. But it took many decades for the old stigmas to evaporate.
Now, look at us today.
This week, 13 vulnerable women who had come to Ireland for asylum were told 'no, you are not wanted on Achill island - not even on a temporary basis'. We hold 'silent vigils' and 24 hour 'peace protests' and say that those protests are against the direct provision system.
But the message for those seeking refuge is the same as for the Irish in America years ago: you’re not wanted here.
In Ballinamore in Co Leitrim, the community was told that 130 people were moving to apartments in the town and some have been protesting since that news filtered through.
It’s easy to understand how people there might have genuine concerns about services in a small town being impacted by the sudden arrival of a relatively large group of people.
These concerns shouldn’t be condemned out of hand as racist or uncaring.
But the attack on Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny takes this objection to an altogether unacceptable level.
As well as locals who are legitimately annoyed at the lack of consultation before asylum seekers arrive, there’s a sinister element infiltrating the protests. Communities must be on their guard.
A recent meeting about this subject in Borrisokane, Co Tipperary, was addressed by the leader of the National Party, Justin Barrett, who says he wants an "Ireland for the Irish".
He went on to say that people of Oughterard said "No" and "we backed them up when they did, and there’s no direct provision centre in Rooskey and there doesn’t have to be one in Borrisokane either".
Tipp FM reported that the crowd at the meeting was divided over the Barrett intervention, with a number of people walking out of the room.
Justin Barrett’s party wants to deport all immigrants living in Ireland. He himself has spoken at rallies held by Nazi sympathisers and Italian fascists. He believes that a woman’s place is in the home, that they are better at minding children than men and should not do heavy manual labour.
The question those who object to direct provision must answer is: What exactly are you objecting to? Are you truly worried about the deficiencies of the direct provision system? Are you genuinely concerned about the pressure on local services? Or do you subscribe to the far-right view of Ireland and the Irish put forward by Justin Barrett and his National Party?
There is plenty of debate around whether people like Justin Barrett should be heard on national media. Is the best way to deal with them not to give them a voice? If you give them a platform, that could be seen as providing them with an opportunity to spread the hate and venom that they promote.
We have thought long and hard about this on Claire Byrne Live. With the direct provision protests now spreading by the week, we have decided that it is important for everyone to hear what those far-right groups who infiltrate communities actually stand for. That is why we have decided to broadcast a recording of Justin Barrett speaking at the meeting in Borrisokane.
We will also talk to Martin Kenny and his wife about the night his car was set alight outside his home soon after he supported plans to move asylum seekers to Ballinamore.
We want to explore exactly what is going on in Ireland right now.
And to ask whether we have forgotten those Irish men and women who walked past the signs in a foreign land telling them they weren’t wanted - No Blacks, No Irish.
Claire Byrne Live broadcasts on Mondays at 10.35pm on RTÉ One