Irish anti-maskers coordinating with German group Querdenken which has links to far-right extremists

A photo of signs outside a shop listing the restrictions in place because of COVID-19 which Irish anti-mask activists are protesting against with help from German group Querdenken.

An Irish anti-mask group is coordinating with a similar and controversial German organisation. Health Freedom Ireland (HFI), which is opposed to Ireland’s COVID-19 legislation, has been working alongside the German group Querdenken-711.

The organisation has organised anti-lockdown and anti-mask protests in Germany. And it has marched alongside supporters of far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AFD) and Holocaust deniers. 

German coordination

Querdenken-711 roughly translates as lateral thinking or thinking outside the box. The 711 in the name is the area code for Stuttgart, where the group was founded in April this year by Michael Ballweg, an “IT entrepreneur”. And its rallies have attracted as many as 20,000 people to the streets of Berlin. 

Their protests have drawn the likes of Nikolai Nerling, an anti-Semitic, far-right extremist and former teacher. Nerling lost his job after mocking the Holocaust in front of his students during a school trip to Dachau. German paper Junge Welt has described Nerling as a Holocaust denier. 

Nerling has also interviewed fellow Holocaust deniers for his website as well as members of Germany’s far-right AfD party.

Speakers at Querdenken rallies have also approvingly quoted US president Donald Trump. In Frankfurt one Querdenken speaker repeated the US president’s claim that if they weren’t testing people they wouldn’t have a pandemic.

In Mannheim members of far-right AfD have spoken at a rally organised there by Querdenken.

According to German activists, Querdenken attracts a “mix of conspiracy ideologues, science and Corona deniers, hooligans, neo-Nazis, Identitarians, Evangelicals, anti-vaxxers, and those in support of a return to the German Reich”. 

Querdenken has also been used by HFI to book buses for today’s rally in Dublin.

A screenshot of the form used to book a bus for today’s protest in Dublin.

Irish far-right involvement

In a press release to advertise its rally alongside the far-right Irish Yellow Vests this weekend, HFI said that it was protesting “against oppressive government restrictions and mandates”.

Also taking part in the rally is Dolores Cahill, chair of the far-right Irish Freedom party. Cahill has repeatedly asserted that the virus is not as serious as portrayed by the government and WHO. As a result, students in University College Dublin, where she lectures, published an open letter addressed to Cahill in June.

In it they condemned her for putting public health and safety at risk by making claims “inconsistent with current science and epidemiology regarding COVID-19”. 

Anti-science agenda

HFI was founded by Kelly Johnson and Maeve Murran earlier this year. Johnson is a homeopath and has shared articles arguing that there are links between childhood vaccinations and autism, which is in direct contradiction to established scientific fact. 

Murran is a practicing kinesiologist and also offers reiki treatments. These practices have been described as “pseudoscientific nonsense” by Paul O’Donoghue of the Irish Skeptics Society.

During an interview earlier this year, Murran argued that HFI was set up to “preserve the right to bodily integrity and to protect choice when it comes to vaccination”. In the same interview she questioned the effectiveness of vaccines. 

HFI insists that its “freedom to choose” and “right to bodily integrity” is under threat. And that the legislation around the wearing of masks “set a dangerous percent for future impingements upon freedoms”.

The group claims that COVID-19 is “no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID) in the UK”. And it questioned the introduction of mandatory mask-wearing.

This flies in face of the latest suggestions around COVID-19. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends their use where there is a high incidence of the virus and a limited ability maintain social distancing. Given this, “it advises governments to encourage the general public to use non-medical fabric masks”.  

And although COVID-19 may not be classified as a HCID in the UK, this is because the classification is reserved for viruses even more deadly than COVID-19. Included in this list are Avian Flu, Ebola, Marburg virus, and Pneumonic plague.

To date COVID-19 has killed just over 41,000 people in the UK, making its death toll the highest in Europe. 

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – AugusteBlanqui


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