MY IRISH IDENTITY is about as Irish as Irish identities get and I can tell you Identity Ireland’s biggest identity crisis is its own.
Identity Ireland, an anti-immigration party, was launched nearly two weeks ago now on 22 July, a hugely significant date. It is the anniversary of the murders of seventy-seven people by the far-right Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.
Four years ago, on the 22nd of July, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people. He then travelled – disguised as a policeman – to Utoya Island where he shot dead 69 young people.
On the morning of the attacks, Breivik laid out online a sprawling manifesto of hatred which encompassed his extreme nationalist views, his Islamophobia and his opposition to immigration, feminism and multiculturalism.
Breivik is, by any sane evaluation, a monster. He languishes now in prison, likely for life.
In one of those inevitabilities which would leave you despairing for humanity, he has – naturally – become a hero to the worst extemes of far-right politics. He is reported to be in receipt of large amounts of fan-mail from all around the world.
Not a coincidence
Launching an anti-immigration movement on the anniversary of the Utoya massacre, though? All a pure coincidence, according to Identity Ireland, who say they hadn’t realised the significance of the date.
You would have to imagine that anyone launching a right-wing anti-immigrant political movement on the anniversary of the Utoya massacre could only choose to do so for two possible reasons.
Either they are deeply sinister individuals bent on showing solidarity with racist extremists whilst sending a not-very-subtle message of terror to immigrants; or else they are profoundly stupid people lacking any sense of history or self-awareness. Those possibilities are, of course, not mutually-exclusive.
At the launch of the movement, Identity Ireland’s leader claimed that it is possible to tell “in some cases” if a person is Irish by looking at them.
The recurring theme at the launch was the evil of “mass immigration” but when asked by anti-racist protesters precisely how many immigrants constitute “mass immigration” and how many immigrants we actually have in Ireland – hardly trick questions for an anti-immigrant party – the party’s founders floundered.
A look at Identity Ireland’s (barely-existent) website reveals the usual “Freeman” woo about sovereignty and returning to the punt. It expresses a pious wish for “an Ireland in charge of its own currency, resources and borders”.
Attitude towards migrants
The mention of borders is important, as is its claim to be a political movement “putting the Irish citizen first”. That’s dog-whistle stuff, especially if you want to appeal to your base without seeming overtly racist.
On TV3′s Late Review, party spokesman Ted Neville spoke in the sort of calm, “common-sense” way which would have come across as very reasonable if you weren’t actually paying attention to what he was saying.
One of the topics discussed was the migrant crisis and the fact that, in its nine weeks in the Mediterranean, the LÉ Eithne saved the lives of 3,377 refugees and, in the fortnight since its deployment on humanitarian duty, the LÉ Niamh has already saved 1,500 people.
In one particularly insightful contribution, Ted told us the Irish Navy should return to Africa all of the refugees it rescues in the Mediterranean. Just send ‘em all back, without any consideration of their fate.
It was not quite as hare-brained as the guy who rang Liveline recently to demand that the LÉ Eithne be dispatched to bring him home from his holliers in Tunisia but close.
Ted clearly has put a lot of thought into solving the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time, alright. (When he ran for election in Cork South Central under the banner of the Immigration Control Platform, his posters claimed that “mass immigration led to Ireland’s crash”. I’m surprised those in front of the Banking Inquiry haven’t dug out his old literature.)
Need for questions
Selling yourself as reasonable makes sense if you’re hoping to better the 0.8% of the vote that Ted Neville scraped the last time he put himself before the electorate, but anyone tweeting criticism of Identity Ireland will find out pretty quickly who – and what – their supporters are. And boy, don’t they like their St Brigid’s Cross swastika avatars.
And that’s the un-squarable circle for Identity Ireland. For a movement founded on – and named after – alleged concerns about our identity, they had better be prepared to answer questions about their own identity and the identities of their members.
Is Identity Ireland just an Irish UKIP with an added twist of racism? Who are their members? Have any of their members been involved – as anti-racist campaigners allege – in the posting of anti-Islam content online?
Are they just the usual online suspects, the 20 or 30 multi-account racists with the St Brigid’s Cross swastika avatars, who foam at the mouth at the mention of Ibrahim Halawa – the Irish citizen held without trial in Egypt for 714 days now – or the four and a half thousand people we have warehoused in Direct Provision centres?
I have to confess a personal bias on matters of race. I am from what racists would call a mongrel race. You see, although I am very Irish, I am also of mixed race. I am the result of the interbreeding of countless generations of Celts, Britons, Bretons, Normans, Vikings, Romans, Tuatha Dé Dannan, Fir Bolg, Nemedeans and whatever you’re having yourself.
I am 100% Irish. I am Irish right back to the savannahs of East Africa when first we came down from the trees and told stories around the fire, stories we shaped and stories which in turn shaped us, the fire of imagination expanding the architecture of our brains and making us human.
I am of mixed race. So are you. So are Ted and the Identity Ireland lads with their St Brigid’s Cross swastikas but don’t tell them. It’d probably kill them if they ever found out what an Irish identity actually is.
Donal O’Keeffe is a writer, artist and columnist for TheJournal.ie. You can follow him on Twitter here.