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LE2024

Profiled: Meet Ireland's new far-right councillors

Five far-right councilors were elected this year.

THE ELECTION OF far-right candidates in this year’s local elections marks a watershed moment in Irish politics, with members of the movement claiming that it could herald the start of a new, regime-toppling era.

Figures compiled by The Journal found that more than 100 people stood for far-right parties or as far-right independents in last Friday’s elections.

Although most were unsuccessful in their endeavours to be elected, the vast majority managed to get more than 2% of first preference votes – the previous best by a far-right candidate in Ireland – in the areas where they stood.

Five ultimately managed to win a seat on a local authority, including three independents and one from each of the Irish Freedom Party and the National Party, who will become the first-ever members of registered far-right parties to hold office in Ireland.

Unlike local independents who have opposed asylum seeker accommodation and called for tougher immigration laws, this new wave of far-right politicians are set apart by an ethno-nationalistic outlook and ultra-conservative social views.

Some of the successful candidates were elected after becoming prominent on social media in the 18 months that immigration has become a flashpoint in Ireland, while others are relative unknowns who are now being seen as figureheads within the far-right.

One of those who has become well-known recently is the incoming independent councillor for Ballymun-Finglas, Gavin Pepper.

Pepper is best known as an anti-immigration agitator who is active in the Finglas area, and describes himself on X as “pro Irish, pro family, pro-life [and] pro free speech”.

He has regularly spread false claims about immigration, including that a vacant pub and guesthouse in Ringsend that was to be used as emergency accommodation for homeless families was in fact being used for International Protection applicants.

He has also been named repeatedly in the Dáil by Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy over his links to the far-right and anti-immigration movements.

Pepper was criticised by Murphy in the wake of the Dublin riots last year, when dozens of Gardaí were assaulted and looting and of vandalism took place in the city.

“Gavin Pepper, another far-right agitator, called people onto the streets for 7pm in town,” Murphy told the Dáil.“Far-right, racist and fascist agitators said this was their chance to incite a riot and to spread hatred and division.”

Murphy later criticised Pepper in relation to rumours around buildings earmarked for asylum seeker accommodation.

 “We have seen 26 arson attacks in the past five years against premises rumoured to be used for asylum seekers,” Murphy told the Dáil in February.

“The pattern is very clear. A rumour starts, true or false, suggesting a property is going to be used. Far-right activists, people like Philip Dwyer, Gavin Pepper and Fergus Power, are quick to the scene. A few days later it is burned down.”

Eamonn Farrell / © RollingNews.ie Eamonn Farrell / © RollingNews.ie / © RollingNews.ie

Pepper regularly posted videos featuring himself confronting politicians.

A leaflet promoting Pepper’s candidacy claimed that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were “becoming a shadow government to drive extremist objectives”.

He said he would campaign against “explicit materials” in the children’s section of libraries as well as proposed hate speech legislation, and described lowering inheritance tax bands as robbery.

He has also supported Enoch Burke, including attending vigils for the teacher who was jailed for breaking court orders to keep away from the school where he used to work.

Since being elected, Pepper has been tweeting about the building of migrant housing in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, and was filmed visiting the tents of migrants next to the Grand Canal in Dublin. 

“It’s all about optics. It’s all about making you say ‘God love them’,” Pepper says in the video while next to the tents. “It’s time to start mass deportations.” 

Sasko Lazarov / © RollingNews.ie Sasko Lazarov / © RollingNews.ie / © RollingNews.ie

Also elected as an independent to Dublin City Council was Malachy Steenson.

A former election candidate for the Workers’ Party, he is now best known as an anti-immigrant campaigner who came to prominence during protests against asylum seeker accommodation in East Wall in Novemeber 2022.

He effectively became a spokesperson for many of the demonstrators at the time and signed a letter saying that access to the Port Tunnel would be blocked until the Government gave into demands that no asylum seekers would be housed in the area.

Speaking to The Journal during this time, Steenson said that shouts of “get them out”,  “they are the enemy”, and “this is our country” directed at asylum seekers were “on one occasion” by a “very small” group of people.

However, months later Steenson himself began tagging his posts on X.com with the hashtag #Irelandisfull – commonly used by anti-immigration figures – and has since used it dozens of times.

Another post of his on X references an “invasion of young fake refugees from mainly Muslim countries”, The Phoenix magazine has reported.

Steenson won a council seat as an independent, but had previously spoken at the conference of the Irish Freedom Party, which had also supported the East Wall protests. 

Previous to this, Steenson was a member of the Worker’s Party, and was convicted in the 1990s by the Special Criminal Court for Republican activities. 

He campaigned against the children’s referendum and against legalising abortion.

Steenson ran for the local elections saying that the asylum process in Ireland was flawed and that the system had been established so that landlords and charity controllers could generate wealth.

“The revolution has begun,” Steenson told a journalist shortly after his victory was announced.

He also highlighted “those who are of a pro-life mindset” who had voted for him, urging them to attend a Rally for Life next month. 

He also ran unsuccessfully in Dublin for the European Elections, but was eliminated at the 12th count. 

tiktok.com / @eiresaor.ie tiktok.com / @eiresaor.ie / @eiresaor.ie

Another new candidate to express anti-abortion views after being elected was Tom McDonnell, the last councillor to be elected in Ireland, following a series of dramatic recounts in Newbridge, Co Kildare.

Although he says he is not a member of the far-right, many of his policy aims align with such a political ideology.

McDonnell, who is also technically an independent but associated with the small, unregistered political group Éire Saor, stated that his first priority is dealing with “uncontrolled immigration”.

He has vowed to stop International Protection applicant accommodation, which he has protested against, from opening in Kildare.

McDonnell has frequently referred to the experiences of his own children, three of whom have emigrated, in support of his anti-migrant views.

“Migrants are going to take over”, he claims his son said in a warning about Ireland’s future as McDonnell drove him to the airport to emigrate to Australia.

McDonnell has also repeatedly said that climate change is a “lie”; rallied against cycle lanes; and claimed that diesel prices are too high to pay for migrants “destroying your culture”.

He has also said that he wants to encourage women to breed as Irish people were in danger of dying out. “We’ve great women and we want them breeding,” The Independent reported him saying after his election victory on Wednesday.

“If we don’t have women breeding, we die out as a breed and we don’t want that to happen.”

Twitter / @moorsey100 Twitter / @moorsey100 / @moorsey100

Two far-right parties also successfully saw their candidates elected for the first time. 

“History was made as Glen Moore became our first ever elected councillor,” a tweet by the far-right Irish Freedom Party (IFP) read on Sunday.

The IFP was founded in 2018 to advocate that Ireland leave the European Union and was chaired until 2021 by Dolores Cahill, a former UCD professor who had made numerous false claims about the Covid-19 pandemic, including that vaccines were fatal.

Misleading claims against migrants have been shared from both the official accounts of the party, as well as its leader, Hermann Kelly. 

Kelly — a former advisor to Nigel Farage — has links with both loyalist and far-right personalities and parties in the UK.

Moore, the party’s first successful candidate, was elected to South Dublin County Council in the Palmerstown-Fonthill area and describes himself on a profile on the party’s website as “a proud gay man who stands firmly against the woke establishment” . 

He posted a video of his victory to social media that included the hashtag #Irexit — a term used to refer to Ireland leaving the European Union, analogous to Brexit.

His social media posts frequently include long lists of slogans in hashtags, including #IrelandBelongsToTheIrish, #IrelandisFull, #IrelandIsRising #IrelandSaysNO #AusländerRaus and simply #Ireland.

Ausländer Raus is German for “Foreigners Out”, a slogan associated with extremist groups.

Moore says he joined the IFP after “witnessing rising violent crime in Dublin” and regularly posts news about violent crimes, including ones that happen abroad. 

Speaking of the clashes between police and anti-immigrant protesters, Moore wrote on X.com: “Please help spread the word to the rest of the western world that the Irish people believe that democracy has failed us.

“People [are] calling for civil war and our country is falling apart everyday.”

Moore had also recently re-shared false claims made by a celebrity chef that Ukrainians registering to vote in local elections were “voting corruption and a national scandal”.

He also posted about “grave concerns about election interference in the forthcoming local and European elections” and which claimed to present “serious evidence of efforts to undermine the democratic process” — though this consisted of not being invited to take part in RTÉ debates.

Candidate photo Candidate photo

The other far-right party success was for Patrick Quinlan, deputy leader of the National Party — or at least, the deputy leader of one branch of the party that currently has two people running in elections who both claim to be its leader.

The party is currently in a leadership dispute following a split last year that involved hundreds of thousands of Euro worth of gold being confiscated by gardaí.

Quinlan ran as a candidate in the Blanchardstown-Mulhuddart area of Fingal for the local elections and in Dublin for the European elections, though he was not successful in getting into Europe.

He describes himself as a field sales representative and says he was “drawn to political action during the abortion referendum” and after becoming involved in local housing protests.

He has also taken part in protests against asylum seeker accommodation which he has described as plantations, an Irish version of the racist Great Replacement conspiracy theory.

“These are areas that have stood up in the face of these globalist, Marxist socialists,” he has said said about protests outside accommodation for asylum seekers.

At a national protest against immigration in May, Quinlan also rallied against unnamed leaders who he claimed are serving “global capital”.

In 2022, he was described on X.com as a “Nazi thug” and responded by saying: “I am no thug.”

Following his victory on Sunday, he claimed that his electoral success marked the start of an era of change in Irish politics.

“We are inevitable, nationalism is the future in Ireland – and rightly so,” he said.

“It’s a David versus Goliath situation, and David is loading his slingshot getting ready to take down this regime.”

Contains reporting by Stephen McDermott.

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