‘Patriots’ using virus to sow division

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There is concern that far-right groups are taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to build support for bogus ‘patriot’ organisations involving fascists, loyalists and English Brexiteers.

Organisations such as the Yellow Vests Ireland, Irish Freedom Party, The National Party, Síol na hÉireann and Irish Patriots have been organising increasingly large protests across a range of issues.

After years stoking a fear of immigrants with related conspiracy theories, the chaotic and authoritarian response by the new coalition government to Covid-19 has provided fuel for a new wave of counter-republican right-wing activity.

Last weekend, they brought over two thousand people to the centre of Dublin in a move to harness anger at mask-wearing and other coronavirus measures.

The main protest outside the Dublin parliament was organised by a group called Yellow Vest Ireland, which describes itself as a “people’s movement” that is “not aligned to any political group, organisation or politician”. Many on the march carried banners with slogans such as “take off your mask” and “it’s only a common cold”.

Meanwhile, over a hundred extremists gathered on Kildare Street to hear speakers denounce the pandemic restrictions. In one confrontation, a left-wing counter protestor appeared to be struck by men carrying sticks wrapped in Irish tricolour flags. Despite suffering a severe wound to the head, there was zero response from the large numbers of Garda police present.

The Irish Republican Socialist Party has warned about “the guiding influence of dark money” behind these new organisations and the “advice and mentoring” coming from the “elite” of British fascism. They have alleged Britain First’s Jim Dowson and Nick Griffin of the British National Party (BNP) are involved and urged the working class, who stand to suffer the most during the current economic recession, not to be drawn to those who “have never had working class interests at heart”.

Separately, independent Senator Eileen Flynn spoke out on Friday about the threat to Irish society from growing far-right activity and the need for solidarity to prevent its development.

Addressing the Seanad, she said she was “very afraid” of the rise of this movement in Ireland, adding that if it was not dealt with “we will live to regret it”.

Ms Flynn said the far right’s aim was “to pit neighbour against neighbour, brother against brother and sister against sister.

“We have seen our tricolour, the flag of every person who lives in Ireland, being used during these violent protests. The word ‘patriot’ has been used as something to divide rather than unite us.”

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