Two TDs have taken aim at the far right during a debate on the updating of Ireland’s laws on hate speech. Cathal Crowe of Fianna Fáil pointed to the sloganeering of the Irish Freedom Party (IFP), accusing it of engaging in “hate messaging”. During the same debate Patrick Costello of the Green Party joined him in his condemnations, warning that extremists here are “emboldened” resulting in assaults on left-wing activists and ethnonationalist definitions of what it means to be Irish.
IFP president, Hermann Kelly, has previously repeated the so-called “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory. In a video uploaded to the IFP YouTube channel he’s also condemned LGBTQIA+ relationships, labelling them as an attack on Irish demographics.
Calling out the threat
Costello and Crowe were taking part in a debate on the Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill, the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill on 9 March when they made their comments. Minister for justice Helen McEntee was seeking approval from the Dáil for the state to opt-in to an EU Commission proposal. The scheme would extend the list of cross-border crimes to include hate crime and hate speech. According to McEntee, the Dáil’s approval of the motion “demonstrates our commitment to tackling hate crime and hate speech, crimes which go against the very foundations of a democratic and inclusive society”.
But during the debate on the motion TDs Crowe and Costello went further.
Crowe, while describing social media as having a “murky underbelly”, went on to say that it also contains “practitioners of hate speech”. Going on, he then accused the IFP of practising “hate messaging” around gender and immigration. And although as a party it has “a right to represent and speak”, if the Hate Crime Bill is updated it’ll have “less of a right to make their statements” as “inciting hatred” will no longer go unpenalised.
For his part Costello attacked the Irish far right in general. After calling the motion and proposed updating of the bill “very important”, he went on to warn of the threat from the far right which he said is “organising on a European-wide level”. He argued that the far right is “on our streets”, “emboldened”, and “much more open in their activities and in the language they use”. Costello discussed the tactics the far right use, relating that
We have seen the assaulting of left-wing activists on the streets, calls for the lynching of Ministers based on who they are, calls for deportation, and protests arguing for the deportation of Irish people who do not fit narrow, often racially motivated, definitions of what it is to be Irish.
He also reminded the Dáil of the arson attack against the car of Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny after he defended asylum seekers at a public meeting in 2019. Costello further explained that the far right has tried to exploit the pandemic. The Green Party TD said extremists have been “using people’s genuine fears and concerns and exploiting them to continue to build a far right hate organisation and organisations in this country”. With this in mind, he declared that TDs must pass the updated legislation as it’ll allow people to “push back” against the “aggressive, racist, violent agenda” of the far right.
Speaking to the Limerick Post last week, IFP chair Michael Leahy described Crowe’s comments as “false, unwarranted and scurrilous”. He also called on the Fianna Fáil TD to “stand up his absurd claims” about the IFP or “withdraw them”.
Kelly, IFP’s president, has regularly repeated talking points associated with the so-called “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory. Believers of the plot insist that various world leaders are depopulating the West and encouraging migration from developing countries in order to undermine white people. In a 2019 tweet Kelly accused the Irish government of being engaged in “Population replacement”. Two months later he again tweeted about the conspiracy, writing “it looks as if those talking about a Great Replacement in Ireland have a point”.
In a video uploaded to the IFP YouTube channel last November, Kelly again opined on the topic of demographics. He insisted that feminists and members of the LGBTQIA+ community were partly to blame for the “massive fall” in birth rates in Ireland. Kelly asserted that “childless feminists and also homosexuals” whom, he said, “have all the sex but no children” have contributed to the “demographic time bomb”.
Kelly, a former press officer for Nigel Farage, currently fills the same role for Romanian MEP Cristian Terheș of the Christian Democratic National Peasants’ Party. The conservative MEP had previously brought a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in which he contended the Romanian government’s pandemic legislation amounted to “administrative detention”. Seven judges rejected his claim, declaring it “inadmissible”.
Featured image via YouTube – Screenshot