By Steph Lacey
On Thursday, 3 August, members of the Socialist Party in Limerick and other local activists successfully stopped the Far-Right from entering Limerick City Library and harassing the workers. Claiming to be on a ‘sovereign voyage to protect childhood’, the hate group, headed by Andy Heasman, a man who got his kids taken off him for abusing his partner, are sailing up the Shannon River in a leaky boat targeting libraries along the way, and trying to intimidate staff into removing sex education books for queer youth.
Heasman, who filmed himself last year taking down Pride posters and spitting on them, and who has previously called the Pride flag the monkeypox flag and said that gay people are the biggest spreaders of disease, is claiming that these books are aimed at children. This is not true. The books are a resource specifically for teenagers and require parental permission to be checked out of the library. Heasman and co. call everyone who agrees with comprehensive, consent-based, LGBTQ+ education “groomers”.
Getting word out
We immediately started organising a counter-protest when we got word that they were coming to Limerick. Thanks to the organising we have done already, we have successfully kept the far-right from gaining a footing in the city, but we knew this occasion would call for more than an on-the-street counter-protest. In the days leading up, we contacted every library and bookshop in the city, giving them a heads up and our contact details. Not knowing whether they would be here Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, we set up city watches. People gave up hours of their day to watch the river and streets.
When the Far-Right arrived on Thursday, we immediately put the word out on social media and counter-protesters gathered within minutes, pride flags in hand. Claiming that it’s only “blue-haired non-binary people” that disagree with them, the far-right got a shock when middle-aged Limerick men started calling them ignorant, narrow-minded and pre-historic. Their attempt at a standout on Bedford Row lasted only 30 minutes. They packed up their transphobic banner and left. Not knowing we had eyes everywhere, they made their way towards the library and were greeted by a line of activists linking arms and forming a human chain blocking the entrance. After muttering, “How did they know?” the far-right quickly retreated.
“Not tonight lads”
Having given themselves a dry mouth from all their hate speech, they entered a pub where they were told, “not tonight lads” by the bar staff who refused to serve them. The following morning, they returned to the library, but knowing that as soon as they hit, texts would be flying and people would jump into cars to get into the city, they fled so quickly out of Limerick that they abandoned two of their members. The abandoned Far-Right got into a taxi, but after the taxi driver was informed of who they were, he refused to drive them anywhere.
Their invasion of Limerick was a massive failure for them. The city came out to protect the workers and run the homophobic Far-Right out. While some people say they should be denied oxygen and ignored, socialists know that the far right should never be ignored. Their toxic and divisive politics poses a major threat to migrants, LGBTQ people, women and the working class as a whole.
The events of Thursday have strengthened the bond among those fighting racism and fascism in Limerick, showing the queer community in the city that there are people dedicated to fighting for their rights, and it has given confidence to other towns along the Shannon to do the same. The librarian said afterwards that it was “the best display of people power I have ever seen.”