Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Struggling to come to terms with a hate crime

Irish Current Affairs Blog of the Year

Gathering in solidarity at a Galway mosque this week

Apart from the wanton destruction, it was the look of despair and anguish on the young boy’s face which left the most lasting impression.

As an adult member of his community brought me on a guided tour of the vandalised mosque, the little boy – no more than nine or ten years old – expressed his bafflement that such vandalism could occur in such a peaceful place.

Why would anyone want to destroy this place where his parents brought him to worship every weekend?

Why is there such hatred for his people in the city he knows and loves?

The Ahmadi Muslim boy with the strong Galway accent was upset and bewildered. As they showed me the broken windows, the flittered books, and the place where the CCTV panel was ripped from the wall, he could not hide his sense of anguish.

The irony, of course, is that many of Galway’s 200 Ahmadi Muslims came to Ireland to seek refuge after being persecuted in other countries.

They are considered non-Muslims, even considered heretics, by many mainstream Muslims and faced persecution or oppression. In May 2010, 84 of them were murdered in the Lahore massacre – the year in which the Maryam Mosque opened in Galway.

Such details were possibly lost on the people who carried out the attack in Ballybrit either late Sunday night or early on Monday morning.

In Galway, the Ahmadis had found a place of refuge. But now their safe place has been attacked twice by vandals in the space of three years.

Adults expressed fear, terror even, when community leaders and politicians from across Galway gathered to express solidarity with them on Monday night.

A discarded Irish flag at the  Galway mosque

The Imam, Ibrahim Noonan, told me he had received an anonymous call three months ago to warn him that a far-right group was planning an attack.

Locks and windows were broken, security camera equipment had been stolen, many of his 2,000 books had been destroyed, family photos were smashed, and an Irish tricolour was thrown outside.
A native of Waterford, Imam Noonan was heartbroken when he saw the scale of the destruction. There was glass all over the place when the alarm was raised on Monday morning.

Nothing seemed to have been stolen, which led members of the community to believe that this was a hate crime. Gardai said that the violent removal of CCTV material from a separate room showed there had been some element of pre-planning.

Politicians from across the political spectrum and community leaders gathered later that night in a show of solidarity in response to the attack.

The gathering at the mosque was organised at short notice to allow people to express their outrage and to show the Ahmadiyya Muslims that the act of vandalism did not reflect the feelings of the local community towards them.

“This act of vandalism was committed by cowards,” said Cllr Alan Cheevers (Fianna Fail). “I can assure you that this does not represent the people of the east side of Galway City. Today was a very upsetting day for me, to see the damage here. I will work tirelessly with the city’s Ahmadiyya Muslim community to make sure that this kind of thing never happens again.”

Gardai launched an investigation into the attack which occurred sometime between 10pm on Sunday and 4am. Rocks were used to break the windows and property was destroyed.

The smashed up CCTV system

“This was a clear, deliberate, and vicious attack being delivered to our community. This gathering tonight is the best possible answer to such people, to show that they don’t speak for the Irish. They don’t speak for anyone in Ireland, for that matter,” said Imam Ibrahim Noonan, whose office was damaged in the attack.

“I think that’s what is important. I have been receiving warnings that the mosque was going to be attacked and that I should be careful about my own movements. I have never allowed such people to intimidate me, because I stand for everything that’s good about Ireland, as an Irishman, and I will not back down to such people.”

Imam Noonan urged Irish people to visit the mosque, have a cup of tea and a chat, and to find out about the belief system of the Ahmadiyya Muslims.

Joe Loughnane, of the Galway Anti Racism Network (GARN), recalled that the mosque was also attacked in July 2017, when graffiti was daubed on the walls. Earlier in the day, he had invited people to attend the solidarity gathering to show the Ahmadiyya Muslims that they were not alone.

“When I came here earlier, it was obvious that the people who worship here felt they were alone and under attack. We wanted to prove to them that this wasn’t the case,” said Mr Loughnane.

“People are coming here, drinking cups of tea, and trying to find out more about the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. This is a hate crime. In these situations, the community can come to understand that there is solidarity towards them.”

He asked people to call out hate speech when they see it on-line.

In recent months, there has a significant growth in the number of social media accounts which spread hatred and fear of Muslims in Ireland.

A new member of Galway City Council, Owen Hanley, told the congregation that he had canvassed every house on the east side of the city in the run-up to the local elections in May.

“This act doesn’t represent the east side of the city,” he told the gathering. “Galway is a city of openness and love. Sadly, there is a small but growing number of people in this country who are full of hate. But ‘Peace and Love’ are the first things you hear when you visit this mosque.”

Imam Noonan reminded the congregation that ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ is the slogan of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. It’s a slogan which attracts a sustained round of applause when his congregation take part in the St Patrick’s Day parade in Galway every year.

A member of the congregation who converted to Islam last year, Roscommon native Alan Kelly, said it had been a traumatic day for the community when word spread that the mosque had been attacked.

He received a call at work, to tell him about the attack, on Monday morning.

“Everyone was so was shocked. We didn’t know how this kind of thing could occur in such a peaceful country. I am Irish and I grew up in this country. We need to join together. Everyone should be united, to create a better life. I don’t see why people have to judge other people or criticise their religion.

“The support we have received today from across Ireland has been amazing, but it is sad to think that there are people out there who want to cause destruction and spread fear without knowing anything about us. I don’t know why anyone would do this to us. There is no reason for any of this.”

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 * 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 - A former newspaper journalist, he is seeking new opportunities in a digital world.


  1. Dear "Frank Dub" (or whatever your real name is).

    I happen to be a journalist who is based in Galway. I was invited to the Mosque on Monday night for a solidarity gathering, where I interviewed people (including Social Demoncrats, Fianna Failers, the Imam) and reported on what I saw.

    There is no evidence of robbery, which is why people believe it was a "hate crime". I never said it was "done by Irish". I quoted people who had spoken to the Gardai and are concerned about the spread of hatred in my city.

    That's what I do, report.

    As for Courttown, I am not based in Kilkenny, haven't visited the site, and do not feel qualified to comment on that particular crime as I know nothing about the case.

    The "far right" were mentioned by the Imam and Joe Lougnane, and the City Councillors, because it is a fact that the Imam was warned of an attack by a member of a far-right grouping. The Gardai have confirmed that two far-right groups have been linked with this attack.

    I abhor hatred of any kind, including Islamophobia.

  2. Gemma O'Doherty?

    The great campaigner on behalf of free speech who blocked me from her Twitter account when I asked her a very simple question six months ago?

    Give me a break.

    This woman is not an investigative journalist any more. She spends her days interviewing racists and far-right campaigners, protesting outside Google, instead of wondering why Google were forced to ban her YouTube channel.

    I don't "say I'm a prize-winning journalist". I won the Irish Blog of the Year award last October for writing honestly about what I see, not spreading hatred, fear, and conspiracy theories.

    The reason people believe the Galway Mosque attack was carried out by far-right extremists is quite simply because they Imam was warned of a threat by a member of a far-right extreme grouping.

  3. You have some nerve calling yourself a journalist. And its so lazy of you to label things as 'conspiracy theories'. False flags are REALITY. Your bullying and disgusting behaviour towards Gemma O Doherty and ordinary Irish people who are highlighting the crimes committed by our newcomers and the media's stunning silence on these atrocious crimes will come back to haunt you.

    You label us as far right and haters and fascists - did you not read Orwell at secondary school - ITS YOU AND YOUR KIND HE WAS WARNING US ABOUT. You actually are taking the side of Google over a fellow journalist. How pathetic. She is the only Irish journalist to take on the elite paedphile rings and the mega corrupt politicians of this land and here you are taking the side of the mega corporation Google banning her.

    How dare you say she spends her days interviewing racists and far - right campaigners - how can you sleep coming out with such slander? Do you consider Robert F. Kennedy a racist and far right campaigner? Are you aware of his work in taking on the pharmaceutical companies in America over vaccines? Are you telling me the Kennedys are now conspiraloons? How dare you insult the people she has on her show. You are NOT a journalist mister, you are a bullyboy and a liar and a propagandist for DEMOGRAPHIC UPHEAVAL. Nothing else.

    There is no proof that the attack on the mosque was a far - right operation. And how disingenuous of you to say you don't live in Courtown. These incidents/rapes have been happening all over Ireland for ages now and are being covered up by our Orwellian media.

    You guys and gals WILL be up before a tribunal someday for your pathetic cowardice and propagandising.

    Do you think her blocking you on Twitter is the same thing as Google banning her. Are you for real?

    Fianlly, dont take Joe Loughnanes word on anything.