Mainstream media in Ireland continue to report on the protests in Oughterard without referencing the involvement of leading hard-right/alt-right activists, who are quite clearly engaged in a national campaign of fear-mongering, rabble-rousing, and local-issue entryism.
I wrote before the weekend about the overlap between organisers of the public meeting in Oughterard and some well known alt-right Facebook groups. These groups continue to discuss their campaign — and vent their racism — in private. That said, not even so-called ‘closed’ Facebook groups are leak-proof, and several screenshots of their discussions have been emerging online.
Many of them have been posted on Twitter. What follows here is a small selection posted by @LeahNiD. Be sure to follow Leah for regular updates; she does some really amazing work. (In most cases, I have cropped the images and pixellated identifying details; you can click through for the originals.)
* * *
Here, for example, an alt-right campaigner is seen congratulating their comrades for the “important work” they did in Oughterard, and encouraging them to now turn their attention to Kildare, where another Direct Provision centre is planned:
As I mentioned on Friday, these alt-right activitists are not from Oughterard at all, but are nonetheless successfully promoting themselves as “local campaigners”.
They have even encouraged protesters in Oughterard to don yellow high-vis vests when protesting against the Direct Provision centre. I very much doubt that most people in the town are aware that high-vis vests are a favoured symbol of Ireland’s alt-right fascist movement.
They have now changed the name of their Facebook group from ‘Stop Connemara Gateway Hotel Direct Provision Centre‘ to ‘Oughterard says NO to Inhumane Direct Provision centre.‘ This, presumably, is an opportunistic effort to hide behind mainstream concerns about the asylum system. The members include several prominent alt-right activists and persons affiliated with anti-immigration campaigns.
Among the group’s moderators is a prominent pro-life activist (not unusual for Ireland’s alt-right brigade) and a man named in media reports as a local organiser, but whose LinkedIn profile suggests is based in London.
This is him talking about how Brazilian migrants are different to African ones (spoiler: he believes they are good at soccer):
Remember, one of the alleged problems with the proposed Direct Provision centre is that it would put pressure on local services, such as schools and healthcare. Another is that claim that the Direct Provision system is “inhumane”.
However, remarks about how “nice” it would be to have Brazilian immigrants instead (or, for that matter, “Christians fleeing from ISIS“), show us that the anxieties here have little to do with the logistics of local services or the morality of the Direct Provision system.
(And as one Oughterard resident, a mathematics professor, has noted, Galway County Council recently announced a plan to build 157 houses just south of Oughterard, and a further 13 houses at Claremont, Oughterard. Neither of these developments provoked public meetings or protests about the risks of sudden local population growth.)
As I wrote on Friday, the people of Oughterard are being played. They are being manipulated and exploited by campaigners with some very unsavoury ulterior motives, who make explicit efforts to keep their true views hidden within private closed Facebook groups.
Views such as the following:
Here is another, largely along the same lines:
And another, although this one is considerably more concise:
Clearly, however, this group has always been conscious of the fact that uncensored racism is not a good look for a protest movement. In advance of Wednesday’s meeting, they discussed strategy. Here someone advises that the group should tone down its “negative volatile emotions” because “you will not win any argument on racist remarks“
In other words, the line taken at Wednesday’s meeting was pre-planned, and calculated to deflect.
These people came to Oughterard to cause a specific kind of trouble.
They know what they are doing. And they’re good at it.
* * *
That said, it should be no surprise that these folks choose to conduct their discussions in private, keeping their Facebook group ‘closed’ to the general public.
We should be thankful for people like @LiahNiD for exposing their activities.
But if these screenshots, and several others like them, are circulating on Twitter, then how come our mainstream media appear unaware of their existence?
The people of Oughterard surely deserve better than this…
* * *
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.