Tommy Robinson’s arrival in Dublin has divided Irish extremists

Tommy Robinson’s arrival in Dublin has divided Irish extremists

Notorious far-right agitator and antisemite Stephen Yaxley-Lennon has arrived in Dublin. The British loyalist and convicted criminal landed early on Thursday morning, saying he invited himself over to report on the recent far-right anti-asylum seeker and anti-immigration protests. It will of course further inflame the situation on the ground given his extremism and links to fellow extremists in the UK. But his presence in Dublin has divided Irish extremists, some of whom have praised and welcomed him whilst others have called it a disaster for the wider Irish far-right movement. 

A nation of welcomes

Upon arriving in Ireland Yaxley-Lennon posted a video on his Telegram channel. There his over 152,000 subscribers heard that he had decided to “go where the news is” and that nobody had invited him over. Earlier in the week well-known Irish far-right extremist Derek Blighe said that his British counterpart would be welcome in Ireland and that they’re both fighting the same battle. 

Similarly, far-right figurehead and conspiracy theorist Dee Wall, aka Dolores Webster, sung Yaxley-Lennon’s praises during a livestream on Tuesday. She argued that “Men in Ireland claim to have two balls — where were they all the way through the lockdown when the elderly were being genocided [sic]”. And, going on, “Where were these men? They couldn’t even come up to have one ball as big as Tommy Robinson’s”. Wall also said she’d welcome him back for St. Patrick’s Day for another anti-immigration rally.

Links between Irish and British extremists are nothing new. Over the last few years Niall McConnell, founder and leader of Síol na hÉireann, has invited notorious loyalist and founder of Britain First Jim Dowson on to his livestream a number of times. Nick Griffin, formerly of the British National Party (BNP) has also made an appearance as well as Jayda Fransen, formerly of Britain First but currently leader of the British Freedom Party (BFP). The BFP, like the BNP from which it split, is a far-right, Islamphobic group.

A liability to the Irish far right

But on Telegram, where Irish extremists thrive and organise, and elsewhere in the Irish extremist ecosphere the reception to Yaxley-Lennon’s presence in Ireland has been more mixed.

One prominent disinformation and far-right channel argued that his being in Ireland over the coming days will only “smear those involved with the protests with accusations of being Loyalist/Brit colluders”. This, the administrator of the channel insisted, is an attempt to divide anti-asylum seeker protests which they claim is made up of “working class [sic] Dubs who vote/use [sic] to vote Sinn Fein [sic]”. And that “this smear is an attempt to draw them away from association of an already grass roots [sic], local and Irish mass movement”. Going on, they highlighted the fact that Yaxley-Lennon was pictured with Anthony O’Driscoll, a convicted drug dealer who previously headed up a gang which specifically target gardaí for attacks. The posted ended with a call that “It is now a must that any Irish nationalist with good conscience get this Grifter [sic] out of here”. 

On other Telegram channels users responded with a mixture of annoyance with and contempt for Yaxley-Lennon. Although not the first time links between Irish and British extremists have been brought to the fore, Yaxley-Lennon’s arrival in the country has clearly heightened paranoia in extremist circles. Some users accused him of being in the pay of Israeli intelligence and engaged in psyops. One pointed out that he’s known for committing fraud. And in what is presumably a swipe at Blighe and Wall, that “Irish grifters inviting him over.. Birds of a feather..”. 

Writers over at the Burkean, long considered a mouthpiece of the National Party, also joined the attacks on Yaxley-Lennon. Claiming that he has links to British intelligence, the author went on to opine that the British man “is an unwanted foreign guest” and “is cancer to any genuine organising against mass migration”. Not pulling their punches they further remarked that anyone supporting his visit to Ireland “should have their cards marked as being too stupid to be of any potential use in any fightback against mass migration”. 

Ignored warnings

Yaxley-Lennon, who co-founded the Islamophobic English Defence League (EDL) has a string of convictions, having been found guilty of assault, fraud, and stalking over the last 18 years. In July 2021 he was found guilty of libelling a Syrian schoolboy who was assaulted in December 2018. After video of the attack went viral Yaxley-Lennon said the boy was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school”. The boy’s family sued the extremist and a court ruled in their favour, ordering Yaxley-Lennon to pay £100,000 in damages as well as legal fees which were believed to amount to £500,000. But not long before the verdict he filed for bankruptcy despite the fact that he received £425,000 in donations from supporters in only two months in 2018. Caolan Robertson, a former ally of Yaxley-Lennon’s, claimed that much of the money was spent on “just giving it to his friends who were selling him coke and who he owed for nights out”. 

Despite this it appears that the main issue some have with Yaxley-Lennon is his declared loyalism and love of the Windsors and not his dozen or more convictions. This is in keeping with a small but vocal contingent in the Irish far right with convictions ranging from assault to armed robbery. These seem to be indiscretions to be ignored in favour of coalescing around the common cause of racism. It’s about getting far-right feet on the ground to cajole, disrupt, and harass. Death threats from this collection are not uncommon as well as calls for the execution of those whose politics are slightly to the left of Mussolini.

Regardless of the mixed reaction to Yaxley-Lennon’s arrival here it does represent an even further escalation. The far right in Ireland has been slowly growing and doing its best to network and recruit. At the same time those in the mainstream press either played down the threat or completely ignored it. Just last August in the Irish Examiner a columnist ridiculed the idea of any kind of threat from Irish far-right extremism after the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE) published a report assessing the current situation here. It noted a “disturbing trend” of Irish far-right groups coalescing around a common theme. And in an interview with The Beacon one of the authors of the report noted that the extremist situation in Ireland is such that “we believe the trends driving it could lead to further growth”.

Now, six months later, we have regular anti-asylum seeker and anti-immigration protests taking place multiple times a week around the country. Asylum seekers and migrants are being targeted by extremists, some of whom are convicted criminals. And now, with the arrival of Yaxley-Lennon, the links between extremists here and abroad are being further solidified and escalating the situation even more. If only the warnings had been taken seriously.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – Dorian Denouement

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