Content Warning: This article features a discussion of protests staged by far-right activists with anti-immigrant and racist views, which some readers may find distressing.
On Wednesday 20th September, far-right protestors congregated outside Leinster House. The controversial protests received extensive coverage in both national and international media. Writing for the Guardian, Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole reported: “They shouted racist abuse at people of colour passing by, threw plastic bags filled with urine at two women, and a young American on her first day as a parliamentary intern had her phone stolen.”
The UCD alumnus argued that Irish people shouldn’t be complacent about the threat posed by the far-right movement to Irish democracy, arguing that the far-right could exploit anti-establishment sentiment, and noting parallels with growing right-wing nationalist movements in continental Europe. However, he argued that Sinn Féin, a party with arguably ethnonationalist roots, countered the potency of this sentiment in Ireland, acknowledging that the party branded itself as a left-wing anti-imperialist party that rejected anti-immigrant xenophobia.
Writing for the Irish Times, Una Mullally questioned why the threat of the far-right hadn’t been taken seriously. Mullally, herself a recipient of the UCD LGBTQ+ Society’s Foy and Zappone Award, wrote: “Bullies blockaded buildings where asylum seekers and refugees were to be housed. A row of tents where asylum seekers were sleeping was burned out in Dublin 2. Librarians are abused at transphobic protests outside their workplaces.”
“Drag queens are harassed and intimidated. People of colour described an atmosphere of fear on our streets coinciding with racist anti-immigration protests. As transphobic rhetoric increased, a rise in street violence against LGBTQ+ people was widely documented. The violence was already happening.” In her article, Mullally argues that such extreme right-wing sentiments have been a pervasive issue in Irish society and politics for a significant period of time, and that Ireland needs to urgently address this issue.
In honour of Black History Month, the University Observer is running a dedicated range of stories addressing the achievements and accomplishments of the Black community and African diaspora, and the fantastic contributions that members of these communities make to our University, and indeed to wider society. We understand that many members of our community may be affected by racism, and that many international students may feel concerned by the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment.
In recognition of the multicultural nature of our community, the University Observer strives to represent the staff and students of UCD in all of their vibrance and diversity. Organisations such as Irish Network Against Racism and the Immigrant Council of Ireland offer excellent resources addressing issues of racism and racial equality. If you would like to share your perspective with us and help us tackle racial issues with hard-hitting journalism, reach out to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.