Inconsistent policing by gardaí has given extremists space to thrive

Gardaí involved in policing a left-wing protest outside the Dáil.

In the last 12 months the presence of the far right in Irish society has become increasingly obvious. So much so that even the gardaí seem to have taken notice. Whether online or on the streets, the same rhetoric is repeated again and again about the Irish people being under threat from a combination of migrants and global elites like George Soros. 

The Irish version of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory contends that asylum seekers are the tip of the replacement spear. Direct provision centres have become known as plantations in an attempt to hark back to British colonisation of Ireland. 

Obviously the comparison is without merit. But that’s not the point. Instead, the point is to use and twist Irish nationalism of the past as an excuse to exclude. It is a completely false construction; a nativist version of an Irish nationalism that never existed. Historical truth in this case is of no concern. 

The consequences of this have been attacks on direct provision centres and activists

A not-so-watchful eye

Authorities have been keeping an eye on the situation. At least that’s what has been reported in the mainstream media. Gardaí have been monitoring the online presence of the far right here since some time last year according to a report in the Irish Times. This was again confirmed last month by garda commissioner Drew Harris. 

Reporting the commissioner’s comments, the Irish Times wrote that far-right groups in Ireland are “under observation” by the gardaí. Harris also reportedly said that the gardaí are in the process of identifying the organisers of various far-right anti-lockdown rallies that have been held in recent months. The fact that the organisers are well-known by anyone who pays the least attention to the problem seems to have gone unmentioned in the report of Harris’s comments. 

Responding to the threat?

Gardaí taking the appropriate measures seems to be a rarity. This is in spite of the fact that the last few months has seen an increasingly threatening far-right presence in Ireland. One of their most notable actions has been the arrest of Gemma O’Doherty. 

She was arrested in Bray under the Public Order Act in August after she refused to provide her details to a garda when asked. Gardaí had been called to the scene after a member of the public reported that O’Doherty and her supporters were hanging banners from the N11 flyover footbridge. O’Doherty is due to appear in court next month in relation to the charges. 

Gardaí also took action last month. A large group of far-right, anti-maskers decided to march on Dublin Port and block traffic. Gardaí looked on and initially did nothing. Once the crowd was content that they had caused enough trouble there the self-declared defenders of freedom decided to march on Grafton Street. There they met a sizeable garda presence but this time it was the Public Order Unit. Batons were deployed and multiple arrests were made. Footage of the incident showed chaotic scenes on Grafton Street.

Targeting the left

All of this might be proof to an outsider that the guardians of the peace have been taking appropriate measures. But these are exceptions that prove the rule. In truth, gardaí have allowed the far right to gain ground, spew hate speech, attack proposed direct provision centres, and threaten and then assault left-wing activists. 

We shouldn’t depend on the gardaí for our protection or be reliant on any state-sanctioned law enforcement for that matter. Those on the left understand this well given the history of repression meted out by the protectors of state power. Whether it was the Reclaim the Streets rally in 2001, anti-water charge protestors, or students protesting against increased college fees, gardaí in Ireland have been quick to target left-wing protestors.

Meanwhile the far right has been able to assemble, recruit, threaten, and assault all while gardaí looked on . Whether or not they are taking the threat seriously remains to be seen. Experience from other countries has shown that the police are often infiltrated by the far right. Who’s to say that the same thing isn’t happening here? We’ve already seen evidence of a member of the Irish Defence Forces being involved with a far-right group.

Authorities here might eventually take wider steps to crack down on the far right in Ireland. But considering the lack of action around a growing extremist presence in Irish society over the last two years it’s best to be sceptical. Perhaps our national broadcaster — which has no trouble platforming white nationalist Steve Bannon — is an indicator of how the mainstream feels about the far right in Ireland. If that holds true, don’t be surprised to see the far right here become an even greater threat in the coming months and years.

Featured image via Flickr – Workers Solidarity Movement


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