FoI request reveals Department of Justice monitoring ‘right wing extremist ideologies’

FoI request reveals Department of Justice monitoring ‘right wing extremist ideologies’

The Department of Justice appears to be actively monitoring the presence of far-right groups in Ireland. In response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request sent by The Beacon, the department revealed the existence of a number of briefing documents on the issue of “right wing extremist ideologies”. 

Earlier this year Europol published a report warning of the international links between the far right here and in Europe and the US.

Investigating extremism

The Beacon sent a FoI request to the department last month. It asked for any memos or briefing documents produced by the department in relation to far-right groups and individuals in the last 24 months. Also requested were the same documents concerning anti-mask groups and individuals produced since March.

According to the Department of Justice, five such documents exist on the topic of far-right groups and individuals in Ireland. The release of all but one of the documents was refused by the FoI officer.

Of the documents the department refused to release, a two-page-long report is on the issue of “preventing online radicalisation”, especially “right wing extremist ideologies and pandemic-related conspiracies”. Another document, 11 pages in length, is described as an “Outline of extreme right wing ideologies in Ireland”. While a similar document, produced in October, is a nine-page presentation on “the ideology of violent right wing extremism” in Ireland. 

The fourth document is described as a research submission to “assess the nature and prevalence of violent right wing extremist ideologies in Ireland.

All four of these records were refused under FoI legislation which refers to matters that are still undergoing a “deliberative process”. As a result, their disclosure “is contrary to the public interest”. 

Section 32 of the FoI Act was also cited as a reason for the refusal of the initial request. According to this section, release of certain records may be refused by the deciding officer if their release “could reasonably be expected to prejudice or impair the prevention, detection, or investigation of offences, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, or the effectiveness of lawful methods, systems, plans or procedures employed for such purposes.”

“A multidimensional approach”

Only one document, described as an “Overview of policing functions” in terms of tackling far-right violence, was released by the Department of Justice to The Beacon. The short report, dated 27 October this year and partially redacted, highlights steps taken by the gardaí to “combat Violent Right Wing Extremism”. 

It’s pointed out in the report that “International best practice” to counter the far-right threat is “a multidimensional approach”. The author argues that garda policies around “integration, equality, combating discrimination and building positive relationships with our minority communities are central” to the issue.

The report also notes that gardaí are currently focused on extremist right-wing “actors engaging in or promoting violence”. At the same time it’s stated that gardaí will not tackle far-right rhetoric. It’s written that gardaí will respect “the legality of the expression of right wing extremism viewpoints in a way that is neither violent not inciting violence”.

Gardaí also assert that its new Hate Crime Monitoring Unit will help with “monitoring and supporting” the organisation in managing hate crime. Its Diversity Monitoring Forum, which includes representatives from various communities in Ireland, is also involved. The report states that it provides an “appropriate platform” for drawing attention to “incidents of concern regarding violent right wing extremism”. 

Europol warning

Earlier this year Europol warned of the threat posed by far-right extremists in Europe. It also discussed the issue of far-right activists in Ireland. It wrote that “known criminal elements have been identified as affiliated with right-wing protests”.

Europol also drew attention to attacks on direct provision centres, stressing that such incidents are linked to an “anti-immigrant ideology”. And there’s a “strong international network involving right-wing extremists from Ireland, other European countries, and the USA”.

The Beacon has previously highlighted statements made by a National Party member which confirms this. During a livestream they said that the group is getting support from the far right in the US.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – The Official CTBTO Photostream

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