In the past week police in the UK have revealed that the threat from the far right has substantially increased in recent years. They disclosed that, “A quarter of all terrorism arrests in the past year were linked to far-right violence”. And since March 2017, “seven of the 22 plots to cause mass casualties” were a result of the influence of far-right beliefs.
Similar statistics for Ireland are not available. In June the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published a report which pointed out that in Ireland there’s “an undercurrent of low-level racist violence which is not adequately recorded or addressed”. It also went on to highlight how there have only been 5 convictions for hate speech in the last 19 years. This is the environment that the far right in Ireland is operating in.
Then there’s the bile aimed at asylum seekers from our elected officials. Perhaps Noel Grealish and Michael Collins see the far right vote as a potential voting block when elections come around next year. Regardless of their motives, their comments are dangerous and put many people at risk.
It normalises hatred and the targeting of asylum seekers. But more dangerously, it gives succour to the far right and individuals motivated by racism and extremism. It makes them think that their views are beginning to gain mainstream support. And from there it’s not a large jump to them giving violent expression to their beliefs given their apparent mainstream acceptance.
This is the slow-burn approach of the mainstreaming of extremism. It doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s incipient and takes time. What’s considered normal political discourse is slowly shifted further and further to the right. And before most people notice, they’re in a situation where the public targeting of minorities is a part of everyday life. The vile becomes the mundane.
Far right ideology is becoming more and more normal in Ireland. If it wasn’t, would two elected officials regurgitate far-right talking points? The reaction they received from most people was heartening. Their comments were widely condemned. But the fact that they felt comfortable enough to make the comments in the first place is telling.
The far right is here. It’s active and doing everything it can to shift the Irish social and political landscape further and further to the right. To ignore this basic fact is ignore everything that history has taught us. And it’s to ignore the danger that many people are already in given the rise of the Irish far right.
If this is left unchecked, nothing good awaits us.
Featured image via Pixabay – Javier Robles