By Aoife Coppinger
George Nkencho, a young black man who lived in Dublin 15, was shot dead by Gardaí on 30 December 2020 outside his front door a mere 20 minutes after encountering them. George was going through a mental health crisis and an altercation had taken place at a local shop.
No mental health expert was present to help de-escalate the situation. Instead, lethal force was used with George being shot five times, twice in the back. Over 16 months on, GSOC still hasn’t concluded its investigation into George’s killing. Meanwhile, the Gardaí who killed him have never been suspended, and George’s family wait in agony in the hopes that this investigation and report will provide some justice. However, the GSOC investigation and GSOC’s credibility as a whole has been put into serious question.
GSOC told the Nkencho family that the investigation would be concluded by the first anniversary of George’s killing. Four months after that there is radio silence, meaning that GSOC has now failed the international human rights and legal standards of a timely, rigorous and independent investigation. Several basic steps were not taken in an efficient manner, including key video evidence not being processed for months; George’s family who witnessed the incident not being interviewed for four weeks; and Gardaí present not being interviewed for eleven weeks.
GSOC, an institution that is effectively Gardaí investigating other Gardaí, is of course incapable of carrying out an independent public inquiry into George’s death. GSOC being set up in this way means that it will not be able to truly challenge any of Gardaí’s systemic problems, including racial and class bias. The Gardaí are set up to serve those in power ie big business and the super-rich, rather than working class people like George. This was very evident during the Debenhams strike in 2021 when the Gardai acted as strikebreakers, protecting the assets of KPMG rather than standing up for the workers who were treated disgracefully.
Far-right reaction – another dangerous threat
Within an hour of George’s killing, a wave of far-right and racist elements began a campaign to spread lies about George and what happened the day he was killed. The spread of this false information was highly coordinated, with the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD) finding evidence of right-wing telegram channels instructing people how to whip up division online.
The far right’s vile, racist and oppressive ideas are a threat to all working-class people. The division they stoke only serves their own interests and ultimately the interests of the ruling capitalist elite which needs working-class people to be divided to maintain power and their hold so much of the world’s wealth and resources.
The impact these far-right forces can have, notwithstanding their tiny size, should serve as a warning. We have to be vigilant about the activity of far-right forces in our communities, and organise to expose and counter their hateful ideas. We also need to build a socialist alternative for working class people to this threat against a capitalist system that breeds division, hate and racism.
Young people organising for justice
YARI (Youth Against Racism and Inequality), an anti-capitalist and anti-racist organisation of young people, which was set up by Socialist Party activists in the context of the powerful Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, has been actively campaigning for justice for George since his killing.
In 2021, YARI conducted a survey which revealed stark truths about racism among the Gardaí and in general Irish society, such as the fact that 35% of people of colour or Travellers said they had been stopped by Gardaí for no obvious reason, and 45% said they felt humiliated and 42% fearful after their dealings with the Gardaí. These findings were handed in to GSOC to highlight the pressing need for race and class to be taken into account in George Nkencho’s investigation, while also calling for an independent public inquiry to take place.
Now, 16 months on and with still no conclusion to the investigation, YARI has produced a newsletter for mass distribution to both cut across the racist lies of far-right elements and also highlight the deficiencies of the GSOC investigation. It is appealing to anyone who supports the fight for justice for George Nkencho to help with the distribution of this newsletter, especially in the Blanchardstown area where George lived and tragically died.
Donate to help fund YARI’s work
YARI also relies entirely on working-class and young people to fund its work. If you would like to donate to help YARI cover the costs of the newsletter the link to donate is here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/youth-against-racism-inequality-activities