Photo of USI Executive 2019-20. From: USI Facebook account
Multiple members of the leadership of the Union of Students in Ireland [USI], which has an income of over €1 million a year and represents 374,000 third-level students, have been shown to have been in contact with, and in multiple cases offered to help, a group which claimed to be part of the extremist, far-left Antifa movement.
The revelations came following an investigation by the Burkean, a campus based news and cultural commentary website, which saw reporters from the Burkean set up a honeypot Twitter account which claimed to represent an organisation called ‘Irish Students Against Fascism”.
That account reached out to numerous individuals, over several months, seeking their help to set up an online database of right-wing students. Irish Students Against Fascism said that it wanted to ‘ruin the lives, careers, and reputations’ of those students, through harassment, doxing, and violence.
On Friday the Burkean revealed that the account had been a honeypot since it was created and since then they have been releasing a stream of screenshots and recorded conversations between themselves and multiple other people, ranging from general election candidates to members of the executive of the USI.
Members of the executive of the USI, including Deputy President / Vice President of Campaigns Michelle Byrne, promised to send the Twitter account the names and details of students who they deemed to have problematic political views. In the case of Byrne this came after the Burkean had said it would pass on the names to people who would “slap them around”.
The group also told Byrne it planned to illegally bug a Young Fine Gael [YFG] meeting, after which Byrne advised them on how to handle any legal issues that bugging the meeting might cause. Byrne said there were numerous links between FYG and right-wing activism, and that YFG was home to ‘proper fascists’. At no point did Byrne make any attempt to stop the illegal bugging of a student meeting.
A second member of the USI executive, Robert Murtagh, who is President of the Northern Irish branch of the USI, told reporters from the Burkean that he was happy to support their group, in either a professional or personal capacity.
They told him that “what we do so far is accumulating information, doxing people basically, and informing their employers.” They also tell him that they were involved in “small acts of direct action…obviously you know what that entails”.
When asked was he ‘on board’ with that Mr Murtagh responded ‘Yeah, absolutely’. They also asked Mr Murtagh if he would be willing to pass them names of students he thought they should have ‘confronted’, to which he replied that he didn’t have any names currently, but he was willing to pass on any he had later.
The President of the USI Lorna Fitzpatrick, has also been caught up in the investigation. Fitzpatrick told the group that she was aware that they were talking to other members of the executive, and that she was personally supportive of their activity, but that she would only work with them in her capacity as the President of the USI if the membership of the USI voted to allow it.
Fitzpatrick did, however, say she had ‘no problem’ passing the group on any material, including names, she saw on a public platform in order to have it ‘called out’. This was after the group told her its activities were illegal and that they were looking to cause professional and personal damage to the students named.
The USI had announced it would be investigating Deputy President Byrne after the initial recordings were released, but the latest releases now show that multiple members of the executive of the USI, including the President, were aware that Byrne was in contact with a group claiming to be part of the Antifa movement.
We reached out to Lorna Fitzpatrick for clarification on the extent to which she was aware of Michelle Byrne’s contact with Irish Students Against Fascism, but she refused to comment on the matter.