Photo credit: Sinn Féin Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has described Saturday’s anti-lockdown protesters as “far-right”, referencing previous “fascist” movements, and calling on people to challenge their ideology of “hatred, prejudice and poison.”

“Cathaoirleach, you’ll notice a few months ago I talked about when the fascists were outside the gate here. And I do feel the need to raise it again here this morning in the wake of what happened on Saturday,” the Senator said.

“It’s kind of personal to me, because when you grow up in London in the 1970s, and you’re part of the London Irish community, whenever we came out to march for the Birmingham Six or the Guilford Four, we had to face down the far-right. And now they were here on Grafton Street last Saturday.”

However, commentators covering the march said that there was a diverse group of people in attendance, mostly from working-class areas on which Sinn Féin rely on for votes.

Garda sources have also confirmed that the individual who launched the fireworks on the day was an “opportunist hoodlum”, who was non-political. As reported in the Irish Examiner:

“Two properties were searched during the day and a quantity of fireworks were seized. The suspect is said to be part of a group from a south Dublin area that “travel in a pack”.

Garda sources described them as “opportunist hoodlums” who may have used the protest — or, possibly, were used by others — to attack gardaí.”

Additionally, both the Justice Minister Helen McEntee and the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris initially indicated that there may have been “far-left” involvement in the day’s events, including potential links to violent Republican groups.

Thousands of protesters attended the march and conducted themselves peacefully.

The Sinn Féin senator said: “I want to make a clear message here; we need to take this threat seriously. Because they” [the far-right protesters] “are a growing threat to our democracy.

“And I want to be very clear here – this narrative about talking to tech companies to fix this issue? It’s nonsense. It’s a middle-class narrative. It doesn’t address the issue at all. What we need to do is have real conversations in our communities, and challenge this false-narrative that the far-right are spreading.

“And I want to say in this respect I commend the work of my union SIPTU, and the trade union UNITE, who have been engaging with communities against racism, particularly in North London, along with representatives from my own party, to challenge this ideology of hatred, this prejudice, this poison, that is attempting to raise itself within our communities.”

His comments came after Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald described the protest as “reckless”, “shocking” and “disgraceful”.