Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Hate speech on the rise in 'Land of a Thousand Welcomes'

Irish Current Affairs Blog of the Year 2018

A protest agianst the Direct Provision system in Ireland

by Ciaran Tierney 

"Board up those houses with the c***s in it and petrol bomb the s*** out of it".

Somewhere in Ireland this week, a man called Anthony sat down in front of his computer or mobile device and decided to write the above comment in response to a “news” story on a Facebook page.

The story, written to provoke and elicit shocking views, had appeared on an Irish site which has a history of stoking up racial hatred, stealing news stories from legitimate outlets, running fake competitions, and attacking minorities while at the same time championing “free speech”.

The comment was one of many calling for violence or arson in response to a loaded headline which intended to provoke a response from racists.

The headline claimed that there was “uproar” in one part of Ireland because “migrants” were due to receive “beautiful houses” . . . presumably, or the implication being, at the expense of native Irish people.

At a time of an unprecedented homelessness crisis, with almost 10,000 people not having a place of their own to sleep in at night, you no longer have to look far to find people online who are only too willing to blame migrants, refugees, or asylum-seekers for all of society’s ills.

It’s so easy to blame the “soft” targets, the people at the bottom of our society, for so many of our woes when those who have caused such appalling inequality (the bankers, landlords, developers and politicians) are far less visible or transparent than those who have been branded as “rapefugees”.

Certain sites attract comments which call for migrants
to be burnt out of their homes. 

The truth does not really matter to these people when there are foreigners to be hated, Muslims to be demonised, and bogus asylum-seekers to be sent home, because the commentators claim we have to look after “our own”.

Funny, too, that those who are clamoring to deport asylum-seekers never seem to put as much energy into actually helping out the native Irish people who are forced to sleep out on the streets of our cities at night.

Two and a half years ago, many Irish people were shocked by the election of President Donald Trump in the United States.

We watched with horror the casual racism, sexism, and Islamophobia which surfaced throughout his campaign, and swore such things could never happen in Ireland.

We watched how gullible, ignorant people devoured “fake news” and blamed Syrians, Iraqis, or Central Americans for the injustice, inequality, and neglect which came from years of neoliberalism in the US.

We understood their anger, perhaps, but felt they were blaming the wrong targets and rallying around the wrong man. 

A protest against US President Donald Trump in Galway

This is Ireland, we said. A place with a long and painful history of migration, a troubled history of conflict, and a knowledge of what it means to be demonised or treated as a second class citizen in your own land.

We were the “land of a thousand welcomes”, a people with cousins and friends scattered all across the globe from Birmingham to Boston and Sydney to Seattle. For hundreds of years, we have known what it’s like to migrate in order to flee persecution or seek out better lives.

We were once the nation of migrants.

And we know what it’s like to be discriminated against or told we are not welcome at the end of an arduous journey. 

Surely, the Irish, of all people, could not hate immigrants or migrants or poor people in search of better lives.

Surely, if people fleeing persecution were placed in a disused hotel, we would welcome them with open arms or at least recognise that they needed to be treated with dignity while they wait for their cases to be processed.

Do we really think people want to flee their friends, families, and communities in order to live in a run-down hotel in rural Ireland on €38.80 per week?

Do we really think they enjoy spending up to eight years in a sort of limbo – waiting to see if Ireland will accept them but fearful, at the same time, of being sent home?

The Irish were the impoverished migrants of the 19th century

Two years ago, I interviewed a woman from Nigeria who was living in Direct Provision. She left me waiting in a Galway pub for two hours and did not answer my texts or calls. I became extremely angry, as this had never happened to me in almost three decades of working as a journalist.

That night, her tearful daughter rang me from the Direct Provision centre. They had no credit on their phone and her mother had been called away at short notice.

When she told me her story the following day, about being kidnapped by Islamic terrorists and having to flee her village, all of my anger evaporated. I realised people like me did not have a clue what life was like for a woman in Direct Provision.

And yet we judge.

Two years ago, I read a book about the ‘Alt-right’ in the United States and the role far-right extremists had played in the election of President Trump.

And I swore that kind of thing could never happen in the Emerald Isle.
Well, it’s 2019 now, and it has.

Hate speech against migrants and minorities keeps popping up online, to such an extent that a man feels it’s acceptable to go onto Facebook and call on people to  petrol bomb a house with migrants boarded up inside.

We had a presidential candidate last year who received a huge boost in support when he, cynically and deliberately, decided to target Travellers midway through the campaign.

Peter Casey is no Donald Trump, but he and others saw how effectively criticising an ethnic minority led to a surge in support.

An anti-racism protest in Galway last year

We now have some far-right YouTube channels in which the same presenters interview each other, again and again, about global conspiracies and how our land is being “swamped” by migrants and refugees.

We have hosts who brag about Islamophobia, with little concept of the fact that most of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims want nothing more than peace and prosperity for their families – just like the rest of us.

We have a former newspaper journalist, who says she’s leading a campaign against corruption, attacking multiculturalism.

“We have to reclaim our Irishness,” she told her YouTube channel recently. “If that’s racist, great. Bring it on. But we are going to make Ireland Irish again and I’m sorry if I sound like Donald Trump.”

Those who speak out against racism, those who claim refugees should be treated with respect in Ireland, often face torrents of abuse from online trolls who hide behind anonymous accounts.

And all the time the online debate descends further and further into the mire, so much so that an Irishman now thinks it’s fully acceptable to call for migrants to be locked up and burnt alive inside their “beautiful” new homes. 


Shock as Italian fascists plan meeting in Galway pub: 
my report for Irish Central in December

* Ciaran Tierney won the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year award at the Tramline, Dublin, in October 2018. Find him on Facebook  or Twitter here. Visit his website here - CiaranTierney.com. A former newspaper journalist, he is seeking new opportuniities in a digital world.   



  1. You're taking the (probably drunk) comment of some lunatic knuckle dragger (you'll hear comments like that in every town in Ireland down the pub if you wait long enough) and using it to frame your take on Ireland as being in some sort of racist far right crisis. How about pointing out actual racism in Ireland? That'd be good. The only people I've noticed who engage in this kind of pearl-clutching fits of the vapours are people who've never travelled extensively outside of Europe and so have no idea how non-racist, Ireland and Irish people generally are.

  2. A thousand welcomes my hole. I've been here 10 years, and I'm the sort of foreign who people forget it foreign, so I hear things that people say when they think only Irish are around. The treatment of foreigners hasn't changed. All that's different is that it's come out from private corners to the public sphere - and that's a good thing because it's better to know what people really think.

  3. Fantastic Ciatan. Ireland has its own brand of mild island dweller xenophobia, coming from a historically homogeneous culture and la k of contact with other races. It is not racist, however. You are right, thankfully there has been no wars here, so we have not looked into the horror of it. Direct provision is a national dusgrace. And once getting status, they now face homelessness. Keep up the good work Mr. stacks!