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How Ireland's non-white election candidates are targeted with misinformation and racist abuse

Fringe groups claim that non-white people running in elections are part of a power grab.

CANDIDATES IN THE upcoming local and European election have been targeted online, often by anti-immigration commentators and groups who have helped to spread misinformation about them.

There has been an increase in both the number of anti-immigration candidates standing in this year’s elections (including from new parties that have heavily promoted misinformation against foreigners in Ireland), as well as a record number of more than 100 candidates from migrant backgrounds.

However, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland, some of these candidates are being targeted with threats to family members, vandalism of their posters, and angry public confrontations.

Evidence of racist rhetoric and misinformation against non-white candidates is readily available online, some of which remains up after being posted months ago when campaigning began. 

Aontú received significant amounts of abuse earlier this year when it announced that it would run non-white candidates for election.

Many comments implied that it was a betrayal by the party, which had advocated stronger migration restrictions.

“Aontú traitors to the core. Gemma O’Doherty called them out years ago as Marxists in sheep’s clothing,” a post on conspiracy theorist Gemma O’Doherty’s Telegram channel read in response to the announcement of Fayiz Alsani running for Aontú in local elections in Boyle, Co Roscommon.

“Ireland should be strictly run by thoroughbred Irish testosterone loaded MEN,” a reaction in a fringe Telegram group to the announcement of Fayiz Alsani said.

However, while being non-white was enough for some of these fringe groups to dismiss the candidate, on, false rumours began to spread about Alsani, who came to Ireland 23 years ago and has been a citizen since 2011. 

“Nobody knows him” one comment that captured a sentiment common on read, while others claimed that he would only work for Muslims. “Next we’ll be governed by them and ruled by Sharia law,” another comment said.

Local councillors create policies for local authorities, which are in charge of services such as roads, planning, housing, parks, community development, environment, and things like libraries and fire services.

Ireland has one of the weakest systems of local government in Europe, according to a draft report by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities cited in the Business Post.

It is unclear how a councillor could implement Sharia, a traditional body of law based on Islamic teachings. In modern usage, the term often refers to laws that require strict dress codes for women, such as the use of hijabs; prohibitions against blasphemy or apostasy; and extreme punishments such as amputations or death sentences.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are among the countries that describe their laws as being based on Sharia.

However, it is common for Muslim candidates in Ireland and elsewhere to be accused of trying to take over the Western World in order to impose Sharia Law.

Umar Al-Qadri, who founded the Irish Muslim Council and is running for the European Elections in Dublin, has face similar misleading claims. 

Hoax stickers claiming to be from the Irish Muslim Council and advocating for Sharia Law to be established in Ireland were debunked by The Journal in February after they were shared widely online. 

Al-Qadri told The Journal that he continues to be the victim of far-right misinformation, including claims, seen by The Journal, that an attack that hospitalised him in February was faked for attention.

Edited clips of Al-Qadri have also been widely spread on social media, including one in which he describes the concept of Jizya, a historical tax paid by non-Muslims to Muslim rulers.

The clips, which were also shared by other EU election candidates, have been seen hundreds of thousands of times.

“Jizya is basically protection money,” Al-Qadri says in the clip as ominous music begins to play.

However, Al-Qadri said that the clip was taken from an academic talk on a concept in Islam, and was not an expression of his political views.

“I nowhere condoned — I nowhere propagated for Jizya. In fact, I am a strong opponent of Jizya tax,” Al-Qadri said.

Similarly, Al-Qadri believes clips of him referring to Hamas as his brothers and sisters and as the legitimate government of Palestine also lack necessary context, including when the video was taken — and what he has said since.

“I spoke in front of the GPO in 2009,” Al-Qadri said of the clip. “I have strongly condemned Hamas extremism and violence.

“In fact, if you look at the past 10 years, if you look at my previous tweets, if you look at the tweets from 2013 up to 2024, you will see me in many ways condemning Hamas and saying that Hamas is an obstacle to peace in the Middle East.”

(Al-Qadri has tweets from 2015 explicitly denying his support of Hamas. Regular tweets since then have condemned the group, which he says “misuses religion for political motives”.)

Citizenship and residency claims

False claims about the amount of time that candidates have spent in Ireland have also been widespread.

“In Ashbourne (six seats) Sivakumar Murugadoss (Ind) is running in the elections,” one Tweet read. “According to his Facebook page he moved to Ireland May 14th 2024”.

However, 14 May is actually the day that Murugadoss created his candidacy Facebook profile page, not the day he moved to Ireland. Multiple posts on other social media pages that tag Murugadoss confirm that he was in Ireland before that date.

“I have lived in Ratoath for 21 years,” the first post written by Murugadoss on that 14 May profile reads.

Similar false claims have also been made about the candidacy of Monica Oikeh, a GP who is running for the Green Party in Carrigaline, Co Cork.

“Did she not want to make changes in her home country? Why is she coming here to change ours?” one commentator said. “Africa is a continent let her go home and bring change to Africa,” said another.“She doesn’t know anything about ireland or irish culture,” a third read.

Oikeh has lived in Ireland for almost 20 years, having moved from Nigeria when she was 15.

A number of very explicitly racist posts against Oikeh were also noted by The Journal, as well as claims implying, without evidence, that Oikeh had broken the law.

“She is a criminal interloper and will never belong here. Deport her and everyone like her,” one tweet reads. “We don’t care when she got here. Illegal African migrants are a massive issue. Last thing we want is Africans having political influence,” said another.

Another accused her of campaigning for “anti irish raceism” [sic].

Similar claims have been levelled against other non-white candidates, such as Fianna Fáil candidate for Navan, Kashif Ali.

“Came for the free stuff,” one tweet said dismissively about the 27-year-old with the BSc in Biotechnology, who has lived in Navan since he was about 9 years old.

Voting narratives

Other complaints focus on who is likely to vote for non-white candidates, including long posts attempting to calculate how many “Islamists” there were in certain constituencies.

There are also claims that non-citizens voting in elections is some kind of fix or power-grab.

(The Journal has addressed similar claims here. EU citizens are allowed to vote in EU elections. People resident in Ireland can vote in local elections. Neither election determines the national government.) 

The Irish Inquiry is a collection of fringe social media accounts that developed as a spreader of Covid conspiracy theories but has shifted to anti-migrant rhetoric. In one of their recent videos, anti-migrant activist Stephen Kerr, who is running in Castlebar local elections, complained that posters by one of his rivals, Labour’s Kamal Uddin, had been “strategically placed” outside a refugee centre.

“Naturally migrant candidates will look after migrant interests, first and foremost, and they’ll be keen to loosen immigration and family reunification rules even further” Kerr said.

(As stated previously, local councillors have no power over these policies).

“Make sure, please, to get out there and vote on the 7th of June. Because you can be sure that all the asylum seekers and all the refugees who have arrived here over the last two years will be voting,” Kerr implored.

Non-citizens are allowed by law to vote in local elections, as per the the Twentieth Amendment to the constitution, approved by referendum in 1999.

According to the most recent figures from International Protection Accommodation Services, there are currently 30,757 asylum seekers in their accomodation, of which 7,555 are children. 

Data provided by the CSO indicates that there were more than 3,930,000 adults in Ireland in 2022. This figure has likely risen, though even keeping with the lower number, this suggests that asylum seekers make up less than 0.6 percent of the potential voters in local elections. 

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