Combatting racism is a 32 county campaign. The rise of the far-right, and the increasing racist anti-immigrant sentiment that comes with it is one of the most important issues going on in society at the moment and is one that not enough people are taking seriously. The far right have tried to infiltrate Oughterard, Ballinamore, Rooskey, and many more rural towns are being added to that list. It is now more than ever that those of us on the left have to team up as a united left front and oppose this at every single level. Every man, woman and child must decide now where they stand. Irrespective of which political party you are a member of. The far-right are creeping into every community across the island - there is no standing above this. There are no impartial observers. As famously quoted, if you are neutral in times of injustices you have chosen the side of the oppressor. We all have to put our differences aside, and work together in the face of racism.
The far-right often refer to refugees as an incoming terrorist threat, but what so many people fail to recognise is that they are the ones who terrorise both asylum seekers and fellow countrymen and women who dare to disagree with their racist views through assault, arson, bullying and intimidation. The far-right are the real threat here. We are a nation of immigrants, the people inciting this hatred do not represent us, they do not represent good, decent Irish people. Where is their chéad mile fáilte now?
It is the same people, the same people who cry free speech that will send death threats, rape threats, and burn a man’s car, all in the name of ‘patriotism’. These people are not patriots, they are anything but. They stand for pure hatred. Let’s be absolutely crystal clear; those who call themselves ‘patriots’, while at the same time using anti-immigrant sentiment but don’t challenge British Imperialism are not patriots. How is targeting migrants going to deliver Irish freedom? You would think they would put their efforts into challenging the British Government in the 6 counties, given that the vast majority of these groups put the goal of Irish freedom at the forefront of their campaigns. Dear racists. Answer me something. How is your anti-immigrant sentiment going to build a better society for the Irish people?
These people call Sinn Féin traitors for offering our solidarity and our services to the most vulnerable in society. But who are the real traitors to Ireland – those who follow the ideas of Tone, Pearse and Casement, or those who have developed a reactionary hatred for immigrants and dare to use republican martyr’s faces as a cover for their racist views? We on the left know that their politics of hate have no place in the Republic and we know that it is those of us who stand in solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers that will be on the right side of history.
Fascism fights to destroy the culture which society has created. Figures of hate such as Gemma O’Doherty, Rowan Croft and Justin Barrett do not care about debate, or reasoning out their views logically. Their ideas fall outside of the normal levels of discourse and are explicitly based on emotions and inciting fear. They argue in bad faith. They are fascists. They want to rid Ireland of all its ethnic minorities and people who believe this can be dealt with through debate are dangerously naïve and show a complete lack of understanding of how these organisations operate. These people will never, ever accept your argument. They only view debate as a way to spread their vicious ideology.
Pretending that fascism can be somehow defeated through rational debate treats fascism as just another political idea, another policy whose merits can be disproved through rational discourse. Even a child could debate with clear, calm, absolute truths, but that will never stop the fascist from claiming victory. Debating is a legitimate political method. Fascism is not. It is an absolute wrong and should not be given a platform.
The far-right are a threat to society. If the left can’t come together to tackle this, and be a voice for the voiceless, who will?
What happened to Martin Kenny and his family should frighten every single one of us. It is an attack on democracy, and more importantly it is a violent escalation from the emboldened far-right. We have to recognise that the far-right in this country are gaining influence and put a stop to it. Kenny is the first and only politician in recent times in Ireland to point out the fact that members and supporters of Fine Gael are using the same lame excuses that the far-right and racists use to stop asylum seekers being accommodated in their towns. Why are so few people in positions of power talking about it? And why is this the result of speaking out against racism in this day and age? A man’s car was burnt out while his children slept inside just seconds away. The far-right are trying to drag us back to the dark days, and Fine Gael are doing nothing to challenge it, in fact they are encouraging them as we have seen this week in the European Parliament when Fine Gael sided with some of the most racist and far-right forces in Europe. On the same week that 39 bodies were found in the back of a lorry in a racially motivated move in Essex. Make no mistake, our government is complicit in the rise of the far-right.
When Justin Barrett and Gemma O’Doherty were spreading their vicious, evil right wing views and trying to stop divorce legislation, Martin Kenny was doing what real Irish patriots do, standing with isolated nationalists in the 6 counties while they fought back against British occupation. I grew up in Antrim. Where were these so called patriots for my entire life of dealing with loyalist sectarianism? The threat of Irish fascism needs to be met with resolute, collective action from all lefties in this country. Fascism is on the rise in Ireland. It is here, and we need to stop it while it’s early. A few racist comments and posts here and there on Facebook ends up with cars getting burned, hotels getting burned and worse, people dying. Because fascism does kill people.
One of the huge factors in the rise of the far-right is the media. The media does the left no favours. 2 weeks ago, it was Jamie Bryson who was getting a platform on mainstream media. Then it was Justin Barrett. Last week they had Peter Casey on to talk about travellers. If that isn’t an incitement to hatred, I don’t know what is. Mainstream media are just as complicit in the rise of the far-right as fearmongers like Barrett and O’Doherty are. The media’s sympathy towards Martin Kenny might have been slightly more convincing if they hadn’t spent the last few years platforming every racist, right wing figure under the sun.
There is an urgent need for hate crime legislation in Ireland. Ireland has one of the highest crime rates in the EU, but we have no proper laws to address it. Statistics have estimated that hate based crimes in Ireland are being underestimated by at least 27% due to incorrect or inadequate logging of crimes on the Garda’s database. We have seen these crimes circulating, whether it be the taxi driver who was horrifically racially abused in Dublin, the UCC lecturer who has received Islamaphobic death threats, or the assault on the young Muslim woman in Dundrum by a group of young people. So why, why are the government not taking this seriously and introducing effective hate crime legislation? We also need to develop a nation-wide initiative that introduces anti-racism courses from early on in school. In a racist society, it is not enough to just not be racist. We have to be anti-racist. We have to be actively tackling racism in our streets. Let’s make our youth the next generation of leaders that we want to see, to promote love, not hate.
Fascists are the enemy of Irish freedom no matter how much they claim otherwise. Republicans drove the Blueshirts off the streets in the 1930s and we will gladly do it again. O’Doherty, Croft and Barrett use direct provision and immigration as issues to advance their fascistic political agenda of hate and division. It inspires hate and anger and instead of taking this out on our government, their followers take it out on the most vulnerable in society. They stand for the direct opposite of everything that Irish republicanism stands for and they have more in common with the DUP, the UVF and the British Government than anyone else. It is our duty, as Irish republicans, to open our hearts to refugees and asylum seekers, and any other ethnic minority here. It is our duty as human beings. The far right are here, and they are organising. We need to do the same. They might not be strong electorally, but they still have support, and we need to put a stop to that, because this is just the tip of the iceberg, it is going to get worse. So, ignoring them is not enough, and debate is not an option.
You don’t debate fascists, you smash them off our streets.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.
Róisín is a 19 year old republican activist from Antrim. She is currently in her second year of Law and Politics at NUI Galway where she is the chairperson of NUIG Ógra Shinn Féin