C: Houses of the Oireachtas

FF Senator: ‘far-right’ fears “blown out of proportion”

A Fianna Fáil Senator has said that he believes the existence of the ‘far-right’ has been blown “totally out of proportion”, largely for “political reasons”.

Senator Ned Sullivan was speaking at a Joint Oireachtas Committee discussion which heard from some of the many tax-payer funded bodies who have been talking up ‘far-right’ concerns in recent months.

“I want to make a general point, which is that I do not buy into this idea of a far-right in Ireland. I think it has been blown totally out of proportion, much of which I think is done for political reasons by people who are on the far left. I do not see a far-right in Ireland,” he said.

“They are not represented in Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann. They have very little support in the community, and I would say less than 1% nationally. The far left is somewhat stronger than that and might be up to 2% or 3%. It suits one side to trade against the other and that is playing politics. We do not want that. Most people are not interested in the far right or the far left. They are interested in a safe environment and an ordered society where they can feel safe and raise their children,” he said.

The Senator said he wanted to try to be “a bit of a devil’s advocate” at the Committee hearing, ” by putting to the witnesses a few points that are being put to me by decent people who I meet.”

“It is important to state straight away that many of the people who are protesting and who have expressed real concerns are not ultra-right, they are not Nazis and they are not fascists. They are people who are afraid. Very often, they are afraid of the unknown. If there has been a deficiency, it has been in information. I know it is a great old cant when you oppose something to say it was not communicated properly but very often, a breakdown in communication is at the core of the problem,” he said.

He also asked the organisations present, which included Le Chéile and the Far Right Observatory if they agreed with him that “all the agencies, including some that are present here today, need to change their language in relation to the Government?”

“There is a kind of divide being created, much of which I put down to the far left. Good, decent people – maybe those who are present – are being gulled by it,” he said.

Niamh McDonald of the Far Right Observatory said that the group was seeking to oppose “far-right hate, bigotry and extremism” and that their work was supported by Uplift, the Irish Network Against Racism, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Migrant Rights Centre, SIPTU, Unite, Community Work Ireland, Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, Transgender Equality Network Ireland, Pavee Point, the National Women’s Council, and “academics and activists countering far-right

Despite such an impressive list of support, Ms McDonald and others called for further resources, saying the government needed to “invest in strategic communications support” and to respond “with progressive policies” on “housing, energy, cost of living, and safety and sex education in our schools”.

Where ‘sex education in schools’ comes into the immigration crisis might be a little unclear to most people, but Ms McDonald expanded further when addressing Senator O’Sullivan’s remarks.

“Let us call the far right what they are: haters, dividers and fascists,” she declared, while also saying “we [the FRO] are also worried about sex education and how that is presenting itself.” All those bigoted parents better watch out!

In 2021, the Far Right Observatory managed to obtain €112,000 in public funding and the same amount again from Rethink Ireland’s Equality Fund, despite not being registered as a company, or even having a website, at the time.

Last year, it co-operated with a report which described a reputable pro-life group as being part of “the far-right extremist scene” – a description which appears to be openly defamatory. The Irish Independent subsequently deleted its article on the report.

The report also talked up the prevalence of “anti-trans” opinion in Ireland, and – inevitably – warned that the ‘far-right’ was rising.

Of course, lumping together pro-lifers, parents with questions about sex education, women concerned about gender ideology, and communities concerned about immigration, as extremists means the ‘far-right’ problem is big enough to make sure the FRO and its many friends will need heaps more public cash to fight against it.

All this, by the way, contradicts statements – often made in parallel to claims about a worrying growth in extremism – that the ‘far-right’ in Ireland are pathetic losers who everyone hates. Are they a tiny handful of people or a scarily large grouping justifying a new ‘monitoring organisation’ every week?

But since when did a failure to provide consistency matter when it comes to getting a share from the public trough in Ireland? Senator O’Sullivan’s remarks pointed to an age-old phenomenon in politics: the usefulness of harnessing a bogeyman to justify lavish taxpayer-funding.

Thar’s gold in them there (far-right) hills, as the old saying goes. And other people’s money is so darn easy to give away.


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