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Ireland's secretive anti-fascist group says far-right here can be 'extremely violent and dangerous'

The group said it is constantly monitoring fascist individuals and groups in Ireland to ensure they do not gain momentum.

Image: AFA Ireland via Facebook

AN IRISH ANTI-fascist group has said far-right individuals in Ireland have the potential to be dangerous and violent and the Trump presidency has emboldened them in their views.

In an interview with TheJournal.ie, a member of the secretive activist group, who wished to remain anonymous, said AFA Ireland has thousands of supporters across the country “who are constantly monitoring the far right and sharing information with us”.

The sometimes militant organisation was set up more than 26 years ago to oppose fascist and racist individuals and groups in Ireland.

“AFA monitors, infiltrates and physically and politically resists those who wish to build fascism in Ireland. We believe that the history of fascism teaches us that it cannot be dismissed or ignored, it must be challenged directly even when it is small and weak,” the group’s spokesperson said.

“Fascism is a statement of intent to violence and anti-fascism is self defence against that. We are determined to never allow fascism to gain a foothold again and recreate the horrors of the 1940s.”

They said AFA does not have any specific political allegiances, but supports any groups or parties taking a stand against fascism and the far right.

There has been a surge in anti-fascist activity across the world in the last two years, particularly in the US.

At a rally in 2016 there were violent clashes between anti-fascist activists and people who had attended a rally in support of Donald Trump in San Jose, California.

Source: CBS SF Bay Area/YouTube

In February last year, protesters also disrupted plans by US Berkeley to host a speech by former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

Then in April, a festival parade in Portland that a number of Republican Party members were to take part in was cancelled after activists threatened to drag out any Trump supporters who marched in it.

‘Dealing with them’

AFA Ireland has organised a number of high profile protests, including an intervention at a meeting of political party Identity Ireland in 2015. Contributors to the meeting were accused of racism and minor scuffles broke out in the room.

The group was involved in a large protest that same year when Polish right-wing politicians Marian Kowalski and Grzegorz Braun were in Dublin to hold a debate ahead of their country’s presidential campaign.

The politicians’ Dublin event had to moved at the last minute and when they travelled to Cork, hotels in the city refused to host the meetings. According to Vice, they were, in the end, forced to use an empty computer repair shop as a venue.

The spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that fascists have never been able to organise openly and “spread their hate in Ireland”, adding that AFA Ireland “will make sure they never will”.

“Any level of fascist activity is a threat, but we are more than capable of dealing with them.”

The group has been notoriously secretive over the years- the majority of its members do not want to be identified and it keeps plans for protests and other activism under the radar.

The spokesperson said this is because members are monitoring and confronting members of groups which have the potential to be “extremely violent and dangerous”.

“Across Europe and elsewhere anti-fascists have been murdered by fascist groups who have identified them. Security is an important part of ensuring we can continue to do our work.”

AFA’s Facebook profile, which has more than 14,000 followers, has been recently warning members of another profile “pretending to be an Irish anti-fascist group”.

“The page seems dubious, but it has now linked itself with a fake twitter account which we know is run by far right trolls,” it said in one post. In another, it warned of a fake Twitter account set up to “get addresses of anti fascists” by offering to send them free stickers.

Self-defence

When asked about suggestions that some of its members engage in vigilante behaviour, the spokesperson said anti-fascists “engage in self-defence, but the physical side of that is a small part of our activities”.

Some people may not believe in the need for militant anti fascist groups, but we believe this is short sighted given everything history has taught us. We encourage all people who oppose hatred, bigotry and fascism to play their part in whatever role they think appropriate.
Those who disagree must ask themselves at what point it is right to stand firmly against fascism because it is much better in our view to stop them at their weakest point than to allow them to grow in strength.

They said Trump and other far right political movements in the US and Europe “definitely emboldened the far-right online and some have attempted to meet, but this has been very limited and done with high level of secrecy due to their justifiable fear of anti-fascists”.

The spokesperson said whenever there is a possibility of members of the far right gathering and identifying themselves, AFA is watching.

“By making it clear that these ideas are unacceptable, we can limit their ability to spread in a meaningful way. Anyone can do this kind of work from challenging racist misinformation on social media to removing or covering racist stickers or graffiti.”

Editor’s note: A photograph was added to the body of this article on Sunday 25th February and removed shortly afterwards. 

Read: Far-right supporter shouting ‘Viva Italia’ shot six foreign nationals in central Italy>

Read: Even communities that condemn far-right terror attacks don’t become more positive about migrants, study finds>

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