Defence Forces disciplined sergeant for posting far-right material online

Defence Forces disciplined sergeant for posting far-right material online

The Defence Forces have disciplined a serving member for posting far-right talking points on social media. The officer made a number of comments on Twitter in which he called for “mass deportations” and “sterlization” of migrants. In one tweet he argued that a number of well-known Black Irish people aren’t Irish. It appears that the Department of Defence (DoD) was first made aware of the issue as a result of correspondence Senators Malcolm Byrne, Fiona O’Loughlin, and TD for Dublin West Jack Chambers received from a member of the public. 

Far-right talking points

The Beacon understands that the officer in question is Sergeant David Sliney. 

Serving as a medic, Sliney has in the past been deployed to Kosovo and Sierra Leone with the Defence Forces. In the latter case Sliney was sent to there in 2015 with four other medics to help tackle the Ebola crisis that was then impacting parts of the country. When reporting on their return from Sierra Leone in May 2015, the Independent described the five as being part of an “international response team”.

But on Twitter, where Sliney wrote in the biography section of his profile that “global elites have given us war”, he regularly tweeted far-right and racist propaganda. In one tweet attacking immigration, the sergeant wrote that nobody was “asked to have these ‘people’ in our country”. Going on, he wrote “We need mass deportations, doesn’t matter if they were born here”. Sliney also advocated for “sterilization and confinement to certain areas” in order to deal with the “invaders”. Other tweets the Defence Forces officer made show him disputing that a number of prominent Black-Irish people are Irish. 

Another tweet from early March the same year shows him running a poll asking whether the lockdown or “Mass Immigration” was “the biggest betrayal”. In a similar tweet Sliney declares that Ireland is “doomed to fall” because of “endless waves of immigration”. On Facebook the medic is also a member of an anti-asylum seeker group.

A spokesperson for the Defence Forces confirmed to The Beacon that an investigation has been “completed”. And that “As a result, the individual in question was paraded and subject of a formal administrative appraisal, conducted and concluded by his unit commander”. The spokesperson went on to say “This matter is now closed”.

Anti-fascist group Le Chéile said it welcomed the news that the issue “has been dealt with”. Speaking to The Beacon, a spokesperson argued it’s “vital that people who are able to do a lot of harm are not in a position where they are vulnerable to being targeted for far-right radicalisation and recruitment”. In particular they noted the “danger that far-right disinformation poses to military organisations”, as evidenced in other EU countries. The issue needs to be “taken seriously” in Ireland too. With this in mind, Le Chéile’s spokesperson called for the introduction of educational resources on digital literacy and disinformation for members of An Garda Síochána and the military.

Public awareness

The information about the investigation partially comes as a result of a Freedom of Information (FoI) request The Beacon submitted to the DoD. 

In representations Byrne, Chambers, and O’Loughlin got on 6 March last year, they were told that “several members of the Defence Forces” had been “posting far-right material anonymously” online, including a sergeant in the medical corp. The writer also wanted to know if “any steps were being taken to actively root out” extremism from the Irish military. Included in the email were tweets which included screenshots of the sergeant’s comments on Twitter. A representative for Chambers then forwarded the correspondence to the Defence Forces Personnel Policy Branch (DFPPB) for the office to draft a reply.

The TD eventually emailed a response to the member of the public on 15 September, telling them he’d been “informed by the Military Authorities that there is an ongoing Military Police investigation into this matter”. Considering this, “it would not be appropriate” for him to comment any further at that point in time. But the response went on to highlight that serving members of the Irish military have to abide by the Defence Forces Social Media Policy. Any person in breach of this would be “subject to disciplinary action”. And added to this, serving members of the Irish military are “required to maintain an apolitical stance”. 

The Beacon has previously raised the issue of members of the Irish Defence Forces being active in far-right circles. In October 2020 it was revealed that a new far-right group called Na Ridirí appeared to have a serving member of the Defence Forces in its ranks. Linked to the National Party, the group encouraged followers to join the “military or police” to receive proper weapons training. Earlier that year a far-right planning document called for activists to use garda and military contacts “strategically”. 

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