Crowds at Le Chéile anti-hate rally hear ‘solidarity is key’ in fight against the far right

Martin Collins of Travellers' rights group Pavee Point speaking at the Le Chéile anti-hate rally over the weekend.

Hundreds of people and representatives of roughly a dozen organisations gathered in Smithfield, Dublin over the weekend for an anti-hate rally. Le Chéile, an umbrella group activists founded to counter the growing far-right presence in Ireland, organised the event. The crowd heard of the threat the far right is to Ireland. Speakers also told the crowd of the “politics of hate” the far right promotes and that “solidarity is key” in combatting the danger it poses.

The rally comes as far-right groups have announced their intention to run in the Dublin Bay South (DBS) by-election next month. Last week the leader of the National Party, Justin Barrett, revealed he’ll be running in the election,. And in recent days at a Yellow Vest anti-mask rally, former chair of the Irish Freedom Party (IFP) Dolores Cahill also declared her plan to run in the by-election.

A call for diversity

Roughly 300 people attended the Le Chéile rally on Saturday 19 June which included speakers from AkiDwA, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), Our Table, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), People Before Profit (PBP), and Sinn Féin amongst others.

Steph Hanlon of Le Chéile pointed out that the group was founded “out of necessity” because of the “politics of hate” promoted by the far right. Although the far right in Ireland is still a minority she argued that the threat must be taken seriously. And that the solution to the problem was “strength in unity” and collective organisation.

Eleven-year old disability rights activist with Access for All Sophia Mulvany told the crowd that the parents of her schoolmates are from countries all over the world. But this shouldn’t result in people singling them out for hatred in the same way she shouldn’t be singled out for being disabled. She said people “deserve a voice” regardless of their background and that “Modern Ireland needs to be a place where people from all over the world are accepted with open arms”. Highlighting the history of Irish emigration and how Irish people became loved around the world, Mulvany asked why wouldn’t we do the same for people coming here. And in ending her speech she declared:

We all know what Ireland needs: Diversity, not division.

“Solidarity is key”

Martin Collins of Travellers’ rights group Pavee Point drew on the history of state oppression of the Traveller community to highlight how to combat the far-right threat. Pointing to how the state and Irish society view Travellers as “inferior”, he said “racism is not new”. In fact, “It’s been an issue in Irish society going back many, many, many years”. But Travellers, he contended, “are resilient” and this is what people should take away from the rally:

In the fight against fascism and racism, resilience is key and solidarity is key.

The founder of Our Table, an organisation that offers culinary training to migrants and raises awareness of direct provision, also spoke at the Le Chéile rally. Ellie Kisyombe explained how Ireland is her home, specifically Dublin’s inner city, and it’s also the home of her children and will be for her grandchildren. With this in mind, she said “don’t tell me to go back where I come from because I belong right here”. And Ireland “is my country”.

By-election candidates

Le Chéile’s rally comes as far-right groups and conspiracy theorists have announced their intention to run in the DBS by-election next month.

National Party leader Justin Barrett told viewers during a livestream of his intention to contest the seated vacated by Fine Gael’s Eoghan Murphy. Barrett’s links to German neo-Nazis are well documented. And in a book he published in 1998 he argued that a dictatorship with a hardline Catholic ideology was the ideal model for government.

Former chair of the IFP Dolores Cahill is also competing for the DBS seat. The University College Dublin (UCD) professor took part in an anti-mask rally organised by the Yellow Vests in Dublin on Saturday where she revealed to a crowd of around 300 people her intention to run in the election. 

Over the course of the pandemic Cahill has made a number of unsubstantiated claims. Last year she told a large crowd at an anti-mask rally that she and others would put world leaders on trial for crimes against humanity because of their introduction of pandemic-related legislation. She’s also claimed that governments hyped up the threat from COVID-19 and that they’re using it “to get you used to your rights and freedoms being taken away”.

Students in UCD have called on university authorities to investigate Cahill, saying the university’s ongoing affiliation with her is damaging its reputation. UCD students also launched a petition calling for her resignation.

Featured image via Twitter – Pavee Point

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