An anti-mask protest attracted close to 1,500 people in Dublin today. The rally, organised by Health Freedom Ireland (HFI) was called to protest against the government’s COVID-19 legislation. Also present were members of the Irish far right who made conspiratorial claims about the virus and its treatment.
The protest was arranged with the help of a German group with links to far-right extremists.
Dangerous drugs and conspiracies
Amongst the speakers were members of the Irish Freedom Party. Dolores Cahill, chair of the party, spoke to the crowd. She argued that the government has been inflating the risks of COVID-19 in order to introduce compulsory vaccinations.
Cahill also claimed that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for the virus. Given this she declared that “We have a treatment. We don’t need a lockdown”. And she encouraged the crowd to contact their GPs to demand the medication from them.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine. In July it posted a warning on its website that the drug can cause “serious heart problems”. And it can result in “other safety issues”, including kidney and liver damage.
Cahill, who is a professor in University College Dublin (UCD), argued that there was a global conspiracy to destroy stocks of hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 began to spread.
In June students in UCD wrote an open letter criticising her for making false claims about COVID-19.
Conflicts of interest
Other speakers included members of the far-right Yellow Vest Ireland and Dr. Marcus de Brun. The doctor has previously caused controversy because of his comments about COVID-19 and for appearing on an Irish far-right YouTube channel.
De Brun has consistently accused the government of “gross overestimation of the national case burden”. And he has said that the COVID-19 legislation is an attack on people’s civil liberties.
Barrister and senior counsel, Una McGurk also spoke at the rally. She told those in attendance that their civil liberties are at risk due to the requirement to wear masks indoors. According to the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI), is a member of the International Protection Appeals Tribunal. In her position there she reviews the claims of asylum seekers wishing to stay in Ireland.
MASI wrote on Twitter that “What chance does an asylum seeker have” when McGurk is addressing a far-right rally.
Countering the far right
Counter-protestors were kept at a distance from the main body of the rally. But some scuffles broke out between the two groups and gardaí. Some counter-protestors accused the gardaí of excessive force and of ignoring threats made by far-right protestors as well as their use of weapons.
One counter-protestor told The Beacon that the gardaí “sided with the far-right protest at the Customs House”. They said that the gardaí continually pushed the counter-protestors even while attempting to pick up a woman who had fallen as a result of being pushed.
A spokesperson for the gardaí told The Beacon that four people were arrested. One man was arrested for breach of the peace, two for public order offences, and a fourth “for possession of an offensive weapon”.
As previously reported by The Beacon, in organising today’s rally HFI were coordinating with a German group known as Querdenken. The organisation has emerged in recent months and has drawn thousands of people to its anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests across Germany.
German activists have pointed to Querdeken’s links to the far right there. This includes members of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) as well as Holocaust deniers.
Featured image via Facebook – Screenshot