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A protest at Finglas garda station on Wednesday.

Far right protesters aren't just in it for the cause - there's also money to be made

One agitator asks his followers for support to cover travel and other expenses related to the protests.

IN THE LAST six months, far right protests against asylum seekers have become more frequent, with greater numbers attending and have featured increasingly extreme rhetoric.

These activities have, particularly in the last year, started to present a significant challenge for the gardaí who are policing them, as the number of protests in Dublin alone has risen dramatically in the first month of this year compared to last. 

The participants in these rallies have included members of already established far right groups, local residents, and what anti-racism demonstrators call “outside agitators” who recruit fellow protestors via social media. 

These agitators are often involved in organising and promoting rallies outside of buildings housing asylum seekers through their social media and Telegram accounts, and several stand to make money from their involvement. 

Ciarán O’Connor from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue said that far right activists have long been at the forefront of using new technologies to reach their audience, and monetising their content. 

“When it comes to crowdfunding platforms, content creator platforms, and streaming platforms with inbuilt monetisation tools – like YouTube’s super chat feature – all of these features have long been used and abused by a broad range of figures.

“Most recently, the various people who are now at the forefront of the current wave of anti-asylum seeker mobilisation in Ireland are finding new ways to monetise their involvement,” O’ Connor stated. 

The researcher has previously studied how different online platforms have been used by extremists in the US, and he says Ireland is now seeing similar tactics being deployed, although not generating the same levels of profit at present. 

The money at play is currently very small in Ireland – but O’Connor says the American experience shows how larger revenues can be garnered through livestreamed content. 

Philip Dwyer 

On Wednesday night, during a protest that saw hundreds gathered to protest in Finglas and eventually surrounded the garda station, Philip Dwyer, a self-styled ‘citizen journalist’ who regularly live-streams these events, swapped his usual role behind the camera and took the mic to make a speech.  

WhatsApp Image 2023-02-03 at 17.40.18 Philip Dwyer speaking at the protest in Finglas on Wednesday.

In his speech, he told the crowd that he was speaking out against “the complete destruction of our society as we know it”, and stated that he wants to see the State “stop the free accommodation, fly them back to wherever the hell they came from”, in reference to migrants.  

However, he also touted his Telegram account and his YouTube channel, promising that he is “highlighting the madness in this country” on both platforms.  

Dwyer stands to profit from both his YouTube account – which has over 12,000 followers – and his Telegram chat community, which has over 2,000 members. He also links a PayPal account under all of his livestreams. 

The Dublin man also makes money from his YouTube livestreams through the platform’s ‘superchat’ feature – which allows viewers to have their comments pinned to the top of the live chat feed under the video for a fee. 

The 91-minute livestream Dwyer posted from Tallaght this week – which has over 23,000 views – saw followers donate €197, £20 and five US dollars.

While monetised YouTube livestreams of protests make up one avenue for profit, another comes from Dwyer’s Subscribestar account, where he offers “exclusive digital content” in return for a monthly fee.  

WhatsApp Image 2023-02-03 at 17.39.36 Philip Dwyer's livestream.

There are different subscription fees on Dwyer’s page, ranging from $1 to $50 – it is not clear how many subscribers he has on the platform, but he regularly reposts it to his Telegram account, where he also informs people of future anti-asylum seeker protests. 

When Dwyer gave his speech in Finglas he urged the protestors to “remain peaceful”, warning “they want you to react badly, don’t fall into their trap”. 

Another man with his face partially covered speaking at the event carried a different message. 

“Burn them out of it. There is no point standing here outside of the garda station, you have to go to where these cunts are staying and burn them out if it,” he yelled into the microphone. 

“Great to see the people of Finglas rising,” Dwyer tweeted after the protest. 

The Tallaght man ran in the national election of 2020 for the National Party in Dublin South West. At the time he stated that he was a Property Manager in the area. 

His political message centred around “promoting Irish heritage and culture”.

During his livestream at the Finglas protest, he seemed confident in the reach and influence of the social media platform he has built and profited from. 

He encouraged a local man called Leon, who said he’d organised the event, to come on camera, assuring him that Leo Varadkar would be watching. 

“We are the frightened people of Finglas,” Leon said. “They are getting shoved in everywhere and they are unvetted,” he added, stating that the protests he is involved in are always “peaceful”. 

Dwyer told him that Irish people aren’t violent, “but that doesn’t mean we won’t defend ourselves”.  

Like other right-wing influencers, Dwyer regularly shares reports of alleged incidents involving migrants, or the persecution of protestors, often without any evidence. 

During his livestream on Wednesday, Dwyer said he’d been informed that Gardaí had “got violent” with protesters attempting to blockade the entrance of a construction site in Macroom where modular homes are being built. 

On Thursday, he told his Telegram subscribers that construction workers at the site had “assaulted” a man and woman who were there to protest. One commenter said that they would have knocked one of the workers out, while another suggested going to protest at the homes of the people who owned the construction company. 

A video attached to the post showed a man and a woman running up behind a lorry being backed up at the site, yelling “get your hands off me”, “get the law” and “get the photograph lads”, although no one appeared to attack anyone in the footage and no assault complaint has been made to gardaí. 

The man filming the incident said “hit me” to one of the construction workers repeatedly, while the worker replied “why would I bother?”. 

Gardaí confirmed that they “have attended ongoing protests in the Macroom area” and that “local policing arrangements were put in place to ensure the safety of those present and minimal disruption to other members of the public”. 

They are not investigating any assault against protesters at the site. Dwyer has not returned requests from The Journal for comment. 

Derek Blighe

Derek Blighe is a Cork-based far right social media personality who also bills himself as a ‘citizen journalist’. 

His following is even bigger than Dwyer’s, as he has over 4,300 Telegram subscribers, and thousands more followers on other social media platforms. 

He leads a group called Ireland First, which describes itself as a nationalist party, but has not previously been registered as a formal political party. However, just on Friday, the registrar of political parties in Ireland proposed “to approve the application for registration in the Register of Political Parties of ‘Ireland First’, having its headquarters at Irishtown, Tullaghan, Mullingar, Westmeath, to contest Dáil and Local Elections”.

Blighe travels up and down the country to places where asylum seekers are living, claiming that Ireland is “under a sustained assault” from “unvettable fake refugees”. 

He refers to direct provision centres as “plantations”, and “people trafficking centres”, and often alleges that the asylum seeker population in Ireland are disproportionately responsible for rape and sexual assault incidents. 

He has led and attended protests in Fermoy, Dublin, Kerry and Wicklow, and he recently turned up at the protests in Lismore, county Waterford. 

Blighe has also found a way to monetise these endeavours. On 21 January, he wrote to his Telegram group, “Things are getting hairy out there, we need to upgrade security as our houses and families are now being threatened.

We also need decent film and sound equipment as phones aren’t cutting it long term. Please consider making a small donation to help us to do this work for Ireland.

Blighe linked a PayPal account to the post, as well as his Givesendgo fundraising page, where he has already raised over €4,000. 

Aside from telling followers that he needs security and is not safe, he also repeatedly tells them that they are not safe due to the threat he believes asylum seekers pose.  

Encouraging people to protest outside of a school in Drimnagh earlier this month on the Mourne Road, which was temporarily used to house asylum seekers while it was closed over the Christmas holidays, Blighe said “Get down to the school tonight, you could have some very dangerous people inside the building”. 

WhatsApp Image 2023-02-03 at 17.45.43 Derek Blighe on video

He further claimed that school children would be sharing the building with migrants and were therefore at risk of harm. The Department of Integration clarified that this was not the case.

Blighe is also adept at networking with influencers in other spaces. He has previously asked his followers to donate to other people, including Irish content creator Dave Cullen – a man who has 201,000 subscribers on his YouTube account. Cullen makes videos about TV and film on a new YouTube channel, after he was kicked off the platform previously for violating its rules – but he also runs a BitChute channel where he posts videos with titles like ‘Mass Immigration and the deliberate destruction of our nations’. 

Cullen is not involved in organising protests, but he evidently shares an audience with Blighe and they advertise each other’s work. Blighe has posted links to Cullen’s PayPal, a site where people can buy mugs from him, and a site where they can donate to him through cryptocurrency, while Cullen has praised Blighe’s “journalism”.  

WhatsApp Image 2023-02-03 at 17.48.47 Cullen uses a cartoon graphic of himself wearing clothing advertising his channel for his conspiracy theory videos.

Cullen speaks extensively about ‘the great replacement’, which is an ethno-nationalist theory which claims that an ‘indigenous’ European population is being replaced by non-European immigrants.  In one of the videos in which Cullen discusses this theory, he commends the ‘investigative journalism’ of Blighe, Dwyer, and Stephen Kerr of The Irish Inquiry, and claims that they are showing “what is happening” in centres for asylum seekers in Ireland.  

Cullen goes on to say that he believes that “our countries are being planted” and that wars are being used as an excuse to “flood” Ireland with refugees. He also states that the birth rate in Ireland is below the “replacement rate”, and that feminism has destroyed the family unit by encouraging women to go into the workplace in “their most fertile years”.  

Blighe has been asked by The Journal for comment.  

Monetising ‘chat’

Speaking again about the difference in scale between activities in Ireland and the US, Ciarán O’Connor of the ISD said, “I have seen livestream videos in the US make up to $10,000, and the main way they do that is through the superchat feature. 

“The whole point of that feature for viewers is to get the video host and other viewers to see their comment. The more you pay, the longer your comment stays pinned to the top of the chat feed.

“In a recent livestream video from outside Citywest in Dublin, I saw people paying to pin comments that said “petrol’ and “diesel” – and what they are suggesting is that is how the protestors should ‘deal’ with the asylum seekers inside. That is highly worrying,” O’Connor said. 

Creators keep 70% of the money made through the superchat feature, while YouTube retains a 30% cut. 

O’Connor stated that many of the comments by followers of these videos actually violate the platform’s terms of use. 

“Anyone is free to use social media platforms, and anyone is free to monetise their content. But they aren’t free to incite violence and hatred, and in doing so violate a platform’s terms of use.”

O’Connor said that another worrying aspect of how these platforms are being utilised is how extremists from one country can fund the work of extremists in others. “These systems are enabling that kind of activity.”

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