Government policies a boon to the repulsive & dangerous agenda of the far right

By James McCabe

No fewer than 125 anti-refugee protests have occurred in Dublin alone this year. Asylum seekers in Clare have been subject to organised intimidation, while a proposed refugee centre in Donegal was set on fire. Far-right groups are ratcheting up tensions in communities with racist tropes about supposedly “unvetted males” posing a danger to women and children. 

Although small in numbers, Irish far-right activists have had some success in spreading their toxic, racist and transphobic narratives through online activity and the organisation of small protests. Their xenophobic campaign took a dangerous turn when they torched a refugee camp in Sandwith Street, Dublin, on the back of a small anti-migrant protest that included local residents. Nobody was injured on the day of this disgusting event, but as Socialist Party TD Mick Barry pointed out in the Dáil, “it is only a matter of time before the far-right claims its first killing.”

European ruling class stoking xenophobia

Irish Times journalist Hugh Lenihan recently argued, “Different countries are competing to send out more and more unpleasant messages about the reception that awaits refugees should they land here.” The Irish government boasted back in January that it had deported 130 migrants in the space of a month. In Britain, the Tory government is planning to give asylum seekers one-way tickets to Rwanda. The ruling classes of ‘fortress Europe’ are creating a region of barbed wire, border fences and migrant detention centres to keep out non-Europeans. 

At least 441 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean in the first three months of this year. The deaths of migrants trying to reach Europe have been disgracefully underreported until the horrific boat-sinking disaster off the coast of Greece in June, where 78 people have been confirmed dead, while 500 are still missing. Many of the migrants on board were from Afghanistan and Palestine; people whose displacement is obviously tied to the policies of Western imperialism. The xenophobic policies and rhetoric pushed by the mainstream establishment across Europe are also creating the conditions for the far right to grow.

Government’s actions are fueling the fire

The Irish government certainly can’t absolve itself of its own responsibility for the growth of the far right. The state is copper-fastening institutional racism in the here and now. The government announced back in January that it would no longer provide shelter for non-Ukrainian refugees seeking international protection. Black and brown people were literally being told to go and fend for themselves. This led to a surge in on-street homelessness with 500 asylum seekers sleeping rough in May.

Unlike other refugees, Ukrainian migrants are being given the same access to healthcare, education and social welfare services as Irish citizens, although most are living in the same awful conditions as the 12,000+ people living in emergency accommodation. By discriminating against migrants from other parts of the world, the state is fostering the false notion of deserving vs undeserving refugees.

Due to public outrage at the burning of tents in Sandwith Street, the government has now said they will attempt to house all people seeking international protection. However, instead of building new accommodation for unhoused asylum seekers, eviction notices are being handed to many people who are currently living in Direct Provision centres. Many of these people have become integrated over the years into the local communities where they live; many are working locally. For example, dozens of residents of a Direct Provision centre in Cork – many of whom have lived there for six to ten years – have received eviction notices from the state and have been given the option of either finding somewhere to rent or moving to a Direct Provision centre in Wicklow!

Oppose “divide and rule” narrative

Working-class and poor people are at the sharp edge of the housing crisis. Most people have internalised the narrative pushed by the media and the state for years that there is a scarcity of resources in Irish society. We should make short shrift of any arguments that frame the situation as a competition between working-class and poor people, Irish or non-Irish, settled or Traveller etc.

The mainstream narrative is of an inevitable competition between all people, which conveniently papers over the obscene amount of wealth being hoarded by Ireland’s super rich and big business. Well over €1 billion of public money will be deposited into the bank accounts of landlords and hoteliers this year. An Irish Times report found that major hotel groups have parent companies in Malta, Luxembourg and the Isle of Mann (for the purposes of tax evasion), and they are not required to publish financial reports that disclose their profit margins. To add insult to injury, many of these large hoteliers are ending their contracts with the state this month in preparation for the tourist season taking off, resulting in what amounts to 1,300 evictions of poor people.

What strategy can defeat the far-right?

The far-right is on the same side as property developers and hoteliers. They actually supported the lifting of the eviction ban. They have also harassed library workers in Cork and Dublin for providing LGBTQ-friendly books. 

We need an active, multi-racial movement in schools, colleges, workplaces and communities to fight the far right’s campaigns of harassment, bigotry and lies. There are half a million trade union members in Ireland. The union movement must mobilise its power to demand the building of public homes for all. 

Tens of thousands took to the streets in February for the #IrelandForAll anti-racist protest in response to the activity of the far right. More recently, socialist and anti-racist activists in Cork distributed thousands of leaflets in working-class communities that included quotes from vaccination centre workers and library workers denouncing the far right. The leaflets also put forward demands for public housing and dispelled racist and transphobic myths. Our slogan must be that “an injury to one is an injury to all!”

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