The comments made by Irish members of the Iron March forum are shocking. Filled with hatred, intentional misreadings of history, and a contempt for democracy, the comments demonstrate that a very dark underbelly has existed in Irish society for many years. This is not news to left-wing activists. Although it might be to most of the media who have essentially chosen to ignore it until recently.
But their hand was forced by events. In the last 12 months we have seen a noticeable rise of far-right activities in Ireland. Its adherents have become more vocal, more prominent, and more bold. Instead of hiding in an anonymous online forum they now post openly on Facebook with their real names. In some cases they do this in private groups. In many others they push their racist narrative openly on social media. Take a look at the comments of any news article related to asylum seekers or racism in Ireland. It doesn’t take long for the hatred to appear.
There’s also been a noticeable uptick in the physical presence of the far right around the country. Be it at meetings or protests related to direct provision or trying to engage in a form of entryism at legitimate political protests, they have made presence felt. They do this knowing they have support even if it is relatively small. And they are willing to utilise this to leverage themselves into a better position.
Tactically speaking it is simple but highly effective. A political vacuum exists amongst a certain sector of the population who feel they have been let down by mainstream politics. The left has failed to capitalise on this. And so the far right has moved in and began to take advantage of the situation. Ideas are spread and promises made. It doesn’t matter that the ideas are corrupt and false or that the promises can never be kept. All that matters is creating some form of support base.
Added to this is the racist dog-whistling of mainstream politicians. They are no fools. They recognise the same power vacuum which the far right is trying capitalise on. Noel Grealish and company are attempting to reposition themselves as a voice for those alienated by a political system they see as being corrupted by liberalism and Marxism. What these politicians are doing is shifting the discourse towards one where the denial basic human dignity becomes an election promise. The far right is having its work done for by mainstream politics. So where does all of this leave us?
In short, on the precipice of something truly dangerous. The longer answer is that a general malaise with mainstream politics has been gathering stream across Europe for at least the last decade. This is well understood in political science. And in to this general malaise the far right has entered to challenge the mainstream orthodoxy on behalf of those who feel left behind. At least that is what it claims.
Given the scale of the bank bailout, recession, and the very real pain felt by many people here, it should come as no surprise that a relatively latent far right has started to become increasingly malignant in Ireland. The zeal and, probably more importantly, the funding exists in droves for it to make a real attempt at gaining power. Even one small electoral success would be disastrous for minorities in Ireland.
Social justice activists do not have a pleasant job ahead of them. Many of them are already facing threats of violence for even daring to suggest that asylum seekers should be welcomed into our villages, towns, and cities. But in spite of these threats they persist. And they do this because they know that to not do so would be to let the extremists win. There are not enough superlatives that can be laid upon them.
Considering this, the road ahead is not a pretty or short one. The Irish far right is going nowhere. It’ll aim for victory at the ballot box or in its attempts to intimidate activists and minorities. Ensuring that this victory doesn’t come about is the duty of every person who wants a society based on equality and understanding. The biggest defeat we could deal the far right is the creation of a country which holds dearly to these ideas. So, let’s do it.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – AnCatDubh