The Far-Right Observatory (FRO), an anonymous collective of activists which came together in November 2018, has been granted €112,500 from the Dormant Accounts Fund. The public money makes up half of a €225,000 grant that has been awarded to the FRO, over three years, by Rethink Ireland’s Equality Fund. It is understood that a portion of the grant will go towards creating two paid positions within the FRO.
As the FRO does not appear to have any formal structure or to be registered as a legally distinct entity the grant will be paid to Uplift, the socially progressive community organising website. Siobhán O’ Donoghue, the Director of Uplift told Gript that “Uplift is the legal entity for the Far Right Observatory until it is fully established in its own right.”
Despite the fact it has just been given over €100,000 in public money the FRO are largely anonymous, with no website, contact details, or publicly known members. Whilst the organisation has occasionally been quoted in the media, their only public facing work consists of a Medium page on which they have, over two years, uploaded six articles about those they class as far-right, white nationalists, and/or anti-mask. The Equality Fund, when discussing the FRO, gives this page as FRO’s primary website.
The Equality Fund described the FRO as “a collective platform founded to monitor, analyse, inform and take action to counter far-right activity and hate in Ireland.” However, the areas listed as being of particular interest to the FRO go far beyond the far-right – the grant pages states that, in addition to focusing on the far-right, the FRO will use the grant to focus on meeting “the challenge of rising Islamophobia, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and racism.”
The paragraph length description is the only information given about the FRO, bar a video which lists organisations who the FRO state they work in conjunction with. The organisations named include the ICCL, Women’s Council of Ireland, BeLong To, and TENI.
Given that that video states that the FRO will use its grant money to “produce high-level data and analysis” Gript asked the Equality Fund how it was that the FRO qualified for funding, as the Equality Fund does not give grants to organisations “whose primary purpose is research.” We asked if that requirement had been waived and, if so, why. The Equality Fund told us that no requirements had been waived and that they were “satisfied that the programme of work to be undertaken by the FRO meets the eligibility criteria of the Equality Fund.”
As the activity of the FRO is conducted largely outside the public’s view it is difficult to determine if the work undertaken by the FRO should correctly be classed as primarily research, but the FRO itself has previously said that the primary purpose of the group is to “discuss, analyse and facilitate the sharing of ideas, information and resources.”
The Department of Rural and Community Development, who allocated the funds from the Dormant Accounts Fund to Rethink Ireland, and so are now directly funding the FRO, told Gript that “DRCD are satisfied that recipients of grants from the Equality Fund qualify under the criteria and selection processes which are applied by Rethink Ireland, and that all such funding is in accordance with government policies.”