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They say ‘Dublin 1 is for the far-right’ and threaten to kill a politician, yet Ireland ignores the threat

The majority of people are appalled by attacks on politicians, and understand these are attacks on democracy as well as on individuals. Yet there is a sense of inertia

As Ireland confronts a wave of political violence during the local and European election campaigning and canvassing cycle, the question remains: what on earth are we going to do about it?

Recently, Janet Horner, a Dublin Green Party councillor was attacked on the North Circular Road. Horner reported that the attacker said, “Dublin 1 is for the far-right”. He threatened to kill her.

On the same day, an independent councillor Tania Doyle, was attacked in Hartstown in Dublin. Two men approached her while she was erecting posters with the help of her husband, and screamed at her about immigration while videoing her. One then attacked her and her husband, punching and kicking them. She was punched in the head, her husband punched to the ground.

Canvassers for another candidate, Ellen O’Doherty of the Social Democrats, were threatened with a knife while erecting posters in Smithfield in Dublin. A man approached them, shouting about the Social Democrats being “Nazis”, and then another man arrived, producing a box-cutter blade.


In Ireland, this violence, abuse and intimidation, disproportionately targets women and those from minority groups. The research and data – such as the recent survey of Oireachtas members and their staff by UCD academics – says so. This goes some way to illuminate why it has not been addressed properly, despite the many warning signs. While online “discourse” is not a representative litmus test of broader public sentiment considering how it bolsters extremes, the barrier of reality between online and off has long torn. In this tear, bile and hatred flows out on to the streets. Often, the ensuing violence, harassment and abuse, are both instigated and utilised as online content to film and share.

TDs including Roderic O’Gorman, Simon Harris, Leo Varadkar and Paul Murphy have all experienced unhinged protests outside their homes. Many other politicians have experienced protests outside their constituency offices, an intimidation tactic that increased during the pandemic, when anti-lockdown protestors and conspiracy theorists overlapped with the far-right.

Journalists and media workers, especially those working for RTÉ, are also routinely harassed, abused and followed in an intimidating manner while working, generally by those within the conspiracy theorist, anti-immigrant and far-right online influencer ecosystem. Little is being done about this, beyond its occasional condemnation, as well as outlets and journalists themselves taking various precautions.

All of this is underpinned by a hatred of “the other”. Whoever is perceived as not anti-immigrant is viewed as the enemy. There is nothing even approaching coherent or effective measures to address violence and harassment motivated by racism in this country. This is despite the fact that we are in the midst of a growing wave of racist and xenophobic violence in Ireland, from rioting to murder, from assault to arson, from street harassment to relentless online abuse.

But instead, what is framed as an issue by the political and media spheres is “immigration”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: immigration is not the underlying issue. Immigration is a reality without which the very functioning of Irish society would collapse. An asylum-seeker and refugee accommodation crisis underpinned by the broader housing and rental crisis is one issue. Unaddressed racism and bigotry is another. Identity-based hatred and violence is an issue. The growth of the far-right ecosystem is an issue. The spread of online hate, disinformation and conspiracy theories, while the tech company platforming this bile is headquartered here and sends its lobbyists to Oireachtas committees to spout spin, is an issue. Resentment over a perceived or real scarcity of resources in communities that is manipulated by far-right grifters is an issue. Policing – including manpower, resources, intelligence, the November riot, hands-off approaches to mobs gathering at garda stations, politicians’ home, and emergency accommodation – is an issue, as is the low number of arrests regarding arson attacks.

So here we are, in an election cycle, where canvassers and politicians fear for their safety and for their lives. At what point is such a serious situation going to be addressed?

Another issue: Irish exceptionalism. Of course the majority of people are absolutely appalled by this stuff, and rightly understand it to be unacceptable and an attack on democracy. Yet there is also a sense of collective fingers in the ears. But just because one doesn’t want certain things to be happening, doesn’t mean they aren’t. We need to face up to this.

The tangible response to date? Examples of mainstream politicians, parties, and Government capitulating to the far-right (whether they understand that’s what they’re doing or not), by internalising and repeating divisive “hardline” language, and pitching and enacting policy that aligns with the “get them out” crowd. What a failure of real leadership.

Many female politicians who have consistently called out the abuse and harassment they face are apparently just meant to put up with it. And this isn’t just to do with politicians. We also know that LGBTQ+ people and people of colour especially are dealing with increased violence and harassment, fuelled by far-right, anti-immigrant rage. It is now open season on anyone deemed by ethnonationalist bullies to be worthy of violence and harassment.

Last week’s assassination attempt of the Slovakian prime minister, Robert Fico and another attempt last November of Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a former leader of the conservative People’s party (PP) in Catalonia, demonstrates how far some people will go to target politicians. Such extreme acts should not be considered a dreadful inevitability.

So here we are, in an election cycle, where canvassers and politicians fear for their safety and for their lives. At what point is such a serious situation going to be addressed? More attacks on politicians and canvassers will happen, and apparently this is now normal and acceptable.