When the mask slips, it’s fascism

Ciaran Tierney
8 min readSep 27, 2023

--

A protest against COVID-19 vaccines in Dublin, Ireland, in November 2021. Photo via Mx Granger (WikiCommons)

By Ciaran Tierney

A few weeks ago, a well-known far-right agitator stood in front of a body of water in Galway and threatened the lives of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste of Ireland on camera.

Although he has no known qualifications or background in science, public health, or medicine, he claimed that the democratically elected leaders of the Republic had ignored him and others in their campaign against the Covid-19 vaccines.

“It is my intent to defend myself and those people connected with me from this atrocious crime,” he said in a video message to followers of his Telegram account.

“And if that means beating Leo Varadkar’s skull in with my bare f — king hands, then that’s exactly what I will f — king do. And then I’m going to Micheál Martin’s house,” he added.

He went on to claim that those who had concerns about the Covid vaccine were “dehumanised” and “stigmatised” by those in power.

“Well, that’s all we need to justify killing you,” he added, just before turning off his camera.

https://x.com/ciarantierney/status/1692148623591543231?s=20

The threats contained in the video were reported to Gardai. If they were not sinister enough in their own right, the person who made them has a history of showing up at the homes of prominent politicians and broadcasters.

He has been filmed at a protest outside the private home of An Taoiseach (the Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar, harassing staff outside a pharmacy, confronting young women in Limerick, and in one case harassing a Co Leitrim woman in her own car, a long way from his base in Galway.

He has been photographed with loyalists in Belfast and, in February of this year, sent out a message on social media welcoming British fascist Tommy Robinson to Ireland.

“Consider yourself royalty in Galway,” he told Robinson, a far-right, anti-Islam activist who came to Ireland to make a film about the “brave patriots” who are standing up against immigration in this former British colony.

What the man with the beard didn’t say in the video is that he managed to get just 0.53% of the vote in Galway West in the last General Election, the same election which eventually led to Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin becoming Taoiseach and Tánaiste of the country.

Concern for the democratic wishes of the Irish people is hardly much of a priority to a man who can be regularly seen travelling to far-right protests up and down the country.

What concerns me about this person is that a few months ago ordinary people in my suburb of Galway City were asked to listen to a speech by him on a bright June evening.

People have busy lives, young children, mortgages to pay, and worries, and few seemed to know who this person was when he stood outside their houses and addressed them.

Rumours had circulated that a group of “unvetted males” were to be moved into a disused house, which is planned for redevelopment, in the neighbourhood.

And someone, somewhere, decided that this was the person to talk to the locals about their fears and how best to oppose plans to move refugees into their area.

This person, who has numerous convictions, put the fear of God into them with a speech about the dangers which these yet to be identified males would pose to the women and children of the housing estates around the area.

A new WhatsApp group was set up in which numerous videos were shared in which people were shocked by horrific images of refugees attacking people. No context was provided for the videos and, indeed, most of them were not even from Ireland. They had no connection at all to this empty building in Galway.

Windows were smashed, pickets were placed, the property owner was threatened, and eventually the developer decided to abandon whatever short-term plans he had to convert the house into a totally unsuitable home for refugees.

But few of the locals, who had genuine concerns about the safety of their children, had any kind of idea about the kind of people who were sending them videos, urging them on in their protests, joking about the smashed windows, and maximising their concerns.

And this is the kind of person who joined the attack on the Dáil last Wednesday.

Online news site Gript backs a far-right candidate, February 2020.

A man who in 2020 was portrayed by far-right online “news” site Gript as a brave candidate who was “tearing up the script” in that year’s General Election. He managed to poll 318 votes in Galway West, even fewer than a disgraced People Before Profit candidate whose own party asked people not to vote for him on election day.

There are dozens of people like him now around the country, who are connected through social media sites such as Telegram and Rumble.

Seven or eight years ago, it would have been unthinkable that people describing themselves as “Irish patriots” would be unable to speak their native language and instead would ally themselves with fascist, anti-immigrant activists in the United Kingdom.

For those of us who remember the dark days of the late 1980s and 1990s, when half of the young people of Galway lived in London, it is laughable to think that the type of people who hated the Irish back then, and urged us to go home, are now sharing videos of anti-immigrant and anti-vaccine protests in Ireland.

Because social media has given a whole new profile to people such as the “citizen journalist” in Dublin who first came to prominence when he racially abused a Muslim taxi-driver during a night out in the capital.

Or the lads in Cork who have threatened the staff of a library, forcing them to close temporarily on a Saturday, out of concerns over some book for teenagers.

Or the man who sits in his parents’ house every day calling people he has never met “paedophiles” and “groomers”, because apparently if you are left-wing these days you must be a child-abuser and part of a global conspiracy to displace the Irish out of their own country.

This person recently told an anti-fascist activist that she should take her own life after he had discovered that her adult son had died in tragic circumstances.

A few years ago, he rang a Polish woman 17 times in one day because she had dared to confront a prominent far-right activist in Longford.

Or the former military man, who walks around rural East Galway with a “selfie” stick, threatening the life of Minister for Justice Helen McEntee because she has dared to suggest the introduction of hate speech legislation.

A cursory look at his Telegram channel will tell you that he once told elderly Holocaust survivors living in Ireland to “go f — — themselves” because their telling of their own lived experience was a threat to his freedom of speech.

These people want us to believe that our political leaders, and indeed Sinn Féin (who have never been in power in the Republic since its foundation) are so evil that they colluded with “big pharma” companies to give us a vaccine which damages our health so that they could boost their profit margins.

They believe it’s legitimate to harass politicians in their own homes on weekend afternoons or to prevent them, or their staff, from entering their place of work at Leinster House, as they demonstrated last week.

They call normal people “normies” — as far-right campaigners did in the United States prior to Trump’s 2016 election — and try to win people over at protests in which they play on the fears of ordinary people.

The mask does not always slip, unless you follow them on Telegram.

If people like this sat beside you in a pub ten years ago, you’d have given them a wide berth after listening to ten minutes of their conspiracy theories and ranting.

But social media platforms, particularly the unregulated Telegram, have emboldened people with far-right views to such an extent that they felt they were justified in bringing a gallows to the Dáil with photographs of the Irish politicians they want to hang for treason.

Never mind the people who voted for them, or the fact that only 318 of my fellow Galwegians voted for this particular person’s brand of fascism.

Because, in their warped world, anyone who opposes them is a “globalist” and a “traitor” and these days an “Irish patriot” is someone who hangs out with loyalists from Northern Ireland or fascists from Britain.

They want to roll back on women’s rights, they hate one Government Minister just because he happens to be gay, and they don’t actually care that the people have voted against them in referendums.

There is a huge amount of anger in Ireland right now. The cost-of-living crisis has spiralled out of control, the cost of housing is insane, as is the cost of renting a property. Some young people feel they have to emigrate if they are to ever own a home.

Many people worry constantly that they are on the verge of homelessness. Our hospitals are overcrowded and the waiting lists for medical procedures are unthinkable as we face into another long winter.

But the solutions are not in mob violence or threatening to hang politicians outside the gates of the Dáil on a Wednesday afternoon.

If you are angry, your anger is justified if you or a family member cannot afford a place to live or decent health care. But be careful who you decide to protest beside and find out what they really stand for.

You might just discover they will turn on you, or a friend, or a family member next, because the majority of those who turned up outside the Dáil last week had no interest in equality, human rights, or the things Irish people have spent generations fighting for.

The man who talks about protecting women and children on a sunny June evening might be trying to win over hearts and minds, but he could really be far more intent on murdering politicians.

Yep, when the mask slips, it’s fascism.

* A digital journalist based in Galway, Ireland, Ciaran Tierney won the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year award. Find him on Facebook or Twitter here. Visit his website here — CiaranTierney.com.

Please follow me on Medium.

Far Right Observatory

Amnesty Ireland

Medium Politics

An Injustice! Voices

--

--

Ciaran Tierney

A former newspaper journalist, with an interest in human rights, travel, and current affairs, Ciaran won the 2018 Irish Current Affairs Blog of The Year award.