The last few days have shown how easily the lies of the far right can take hold and spread like a virus. In Oughterard, the far right have shown their hand. It’s a strong hand that plays on the fears of locals. Many communities have been left suffering for the last ten years due to the recession and subsequent cutbacks. Facilities are lacking, hospital waiting lists are high, and underemployment is rampant.
And the far right has used this to engender fear about even the possibility of asylum seekers appearing in rural Ireland. Oughterard just happens to be the latest example of this. The far right played this up across social media. Using private Facebook groups to make sure everyone was on message when the time came, it was successful. The fear mongering worked and misinformation worked. And now we have the sight of roughly 1,500 people marching through a town in rural Ireland to voice their opposition to asylum seekers based on lies and mistruths.
There is an ethical argument that can be made against the government’s continued use of direct provision. The conditions in direct provision asylum seekers in Ireland are forced to live in while awaiting the outcome of their asylum applications are nothing short of inhumane. And some of these people were present at the march on Saturday, apparently unaware of the far-right organising behind it. Asylum seekers have time and again made their concerns public. The government’s response is to keep on ignoring the issue.
But this wasn’t the kind of argument made by certain elements in Oughterard last week during a public meeting. Instead, the argument was about people who only come here to “sponge” off the system; how they’re really scam artists who should have been deported long ago. Far-right activists from across the country were in attendance. An independent TD played to the provocateurs in attendance. Thus we grow ever closer xenophobia becoming a viable election pledge.
An apparent success will embolden the far right. The same tactics are already being prepared for use elsewhere. We’ve seen before what can happen to Direct Provision centres in other parts of the country. Luckily they were empty when they were set on fire. How long will we have to wait before a centre that actually has asylum seekers in it is attacked in the same manner?
This question should be at the forefront of all our minds. Because, if nobody challenges the lies and hatred, the answer to the question is not very long.
Featured image via Flickr – Socialist Appeal