IRELAND: Far-right and anti-racism protesters clash; police deny young climate protesters supervision

Article written by European Civic Forum and originally published by Civicus Monitor, 11 March 2020 – accessible here


Since 2018, Ireland has experienced an increase in far-right organising. While political elections held on 8th February 2020 demonstrated the inability of far-right parties to mobilise voters, civil society has noted how these efforts have become progressively more organised. These groups have moved from the realm of social media where they first gained momentum to offline mobilisations. As reported by anti-racist activist Mark Malone on his blog Brexit, Europe and the Left:

“The two successful referenda on key social issues provided a rallying point for the right-wing social conservativism into which the far right has fully inserted itself. Their campaigns have been largely unsuccessful on the ground but have had the effect of bringing disparate far-right groupings into contact with each other online.”

Examples of how these groups have mobilised offline include anti-migrant rallies in villages across Ireland, organising aggressive counter-demonstrations or using intimidation techniques to target groups involved in migrant or asylum-seeker solidarity work. The biggest concern of the sector is that these groups are able to affect public discourse.


Anti-racism and far-right protesters clash

On 14th December 2019, hundreds of anti-racism activists gathered in Dublin in resistance to the rise of the far-right. The gathering, Rally for Peace on Earth – Against the Politics of Hatred was organised by the Solidarity Alliance against Racism and Fascism (SARF) with support from the largest trade union, community organisations, faith groups and campaigning NGOs across the country.

We must at this time continue to hold the space of inclusivity and openness against the forces of bigotry, division and hate,” the organisers said.

During the rally a second group showed up to counter demonstrate and ‘defend free speech’, with some participants from the far-right Irish Freedom Party. They carried placards stating: “no to hate speech laws” and “keep Ireland Irish.” The two groups faced off and it’s reported that three people were arrested on public order offences.

On 1st February 2020, protesters for and against new hate speech legislation clashed again in Dublin. In 2019 the Minister of Justice held public consultations to update Ireland’s law regulating hate speech. The government wants to introduce the legislation this year. During the clash a police officer was hurt while trying to keep the two sides apart. Media reports state that some protesters were arrested. They have since been released pending a court appearance.

Police refuse to supervise climate protest

Dublin’s police refused to facilitate the Fridays for Future strike carried out on 7th February 2020. In leaked emails, a sergeant at the Pearse Street Garda station wrote: “Since no supervision can be guaranteed and, given the age profile and issues that have occurred previously… anyone bringing the students to an unsuitable area to gather and create a situation similar to the crushing scenes that happened at previous marches leave themselves open to criminal proceedings.”Police also warned that teachers may be prosecuted if the protest turned violent. This was the last of several marches which brought together thousands of students. Hundreds of students took part in the protest which was peaceful. However, lack of co-operation with the police might have had a chilling effect and discouraged the participation of many, commented a local rights association.

Extinction Rebellion take on petrochemical event

On 30th October 2019 about 20 climate protesters from Extinction Rebellion gathered outside a hotel where a two-day conference organised by the Irish Shelf Petroleum Study Group was taking place. The group poured 15 litres of fake blood on the gates of the hotel to symbolise the ‘blood on the hands’ of large oil companies.