Four years of Donald Trump’s extremist rhetoric reached its natural apex in Washington last week. Having refused to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election legitimately, Trump has spent the last two months inflaming his supporters. These same supporters have been waiting for the opportunity to strike. And on Tuesday 6 January, while it seemed the entirety of the Irish Internet looked on, they believed their time had come.
Having gathered in their thousands outside the Capitol, a who’s who of US extremist groups stormed the building. White nationalists, the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Boys as well as QAnon conspiracy theorists were all present. The election, they believed, was stolen from Trump. And they were there to take it back.
Within view of the Capitol, the extremists had constructed a gallows. Inside the building others, dress in combat gear, carried zip ties with them. Their intention was to kidnap and put on trial a number of US politicians, including Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as well as Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence. Extremists singled out the latter for his apparent treachery in refusing to block the Senate confirming Biden’s election win. Ocasio-Cortez and Pelosi’s regular criticisms of Trump resulted in the insurrectionists targeting them for summary trial and inevitable execution. And all this in just the first six days of 2021.
Most of us on the other side of the Atlantic looked on with a mixture of disbelief and a feeling that it’s surprising something like this hadn’t happened sooner. Many also looked on while thinking that the same thing isn’t possible here. Extremists, they’re sure, would never storm government buildings in Europe, the UK, or even Ireland. But that’s always the feeling amongst a sizeable proportion until it actually happens.
Our own threats
Have we seen something similar here in Ireland? Yes, of course. The National Party held a rally outside the Dáil in July last year calling for the resignation of the minister for children Roderic O’Gorman. Extremists gathered at the rally demanding his resignation on the basis of a homophobic conspiracy theory. The theory itself was spread by the groups and individuals at the protest in the first place. And they also carried banners with a noose featuring predominantly on them. At the same rally the extremists attacked a small group of counter-protestors.
One month later counter-protestors were assaulted by extremists at an anti-mask rally at the Custom House in Dublin. The National Party, Irish Freedom Party (IFP), and other individuals known to activists as far-right extremists were all in attendance. Health Freedom Ireland (HFI) organised the rally in conjunction with German group Querdenken. As we revealed at the time, Querdenken is itself linked to Alternative für Deutschland as well as Holocaust deniers.
In September an anti-lockdown rally organised by members of the National Party and its supporters also took place outside the Dáil. And, like the previous one, the extremists resorted to violence. A number of observers were surrounded by the crowd. One of the crowd, Michael Quinn of the National Party, allegedly struck LGBTQIA+ activist Izzy Kamikaze on her head with a plank that was draped in the Irish flag.
And in just the last few days arsonists caused a fire at a multicultural centre in what the PSNI is describing as a hate crime. According to a report in the Journal, the fire “resulted in significant damage to the property” and “was started deliberately”.
Focus closer to home
Members of the Irish far right are highly active and networked. Attacks like these are just spikes in a constant stream of scheming on their part. They already believe they’re engaged in a war against various forces; the Irish government, George Soros, “Anti-Fa”, the left, and anyone who doesn’t fall for their narrative.
A planning document extremists uploaded to the Internet last year contains detailed plans for nationwide organising. Included in the document are suggestions for activists to “use garda contacts and military contacts and civil service contacts strategically”. This might appear to be wishful thinking on their part. But a former member of the French Foreign Legion was part of a security team during the rally at which an extremist injured Izzy Kamikaze.
Last year The Beacon also revealed a serving member of the Irish Defence Forces is part of a far-right group called Na Ridirí which is itself linked to the National Party. On its Instagram page the group recommended to its readers, who want access to weapons, “enlisting for the military or police” for “disciplined regimented training”. So to say that there isn’t a viable extremist threat already in Ireland is dangerously incorrect.
The role of the gardaí in all of this is uncertain. Over the last year they appeared to be enabling the far right to gather on Irish streets and attack left-wing activists. On more than a few occasions it was counter-protestors whom the gardaí policed and not the far right. Although the gardaí now appear to be taking a stronger approach with the far right, it’s activists who have done most of the footwork in countering Irish extremism.
All eyes are on the US but we shouldn’t lose focus closer to home. So while many of us were glued to our Twitter feeds last week, believing what some think impossible was about to become a reality, we can’t be complacent. We know the threat is here, networked, and active. A gallows outside the Capitol isn’t so different to banners with nooses outside the Dáil. We’d do well to remember that.