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Fringe anti-migrant groups 'latch on' to man's arrest over murder of Ashling Murphy

The man has since been released and eliminated by gardaí as a suspect.

Image: Shutterstock/BigTunaOnline

SMALL, FRINGE GROUPS and individuals on the far right of Irish politics have sought to use the arrest of a man in connection with the murder of Ashling Murphy to stir up anti-migrant sentiment.

The 23-year-old teacher was killed when she was attacked along the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly on Wednesday afternoon. 

A 40-year-old man who is not originally from Ireland was arrested a short time after her body was discovered and he was questioned by gardaí throughout yesterday before being released. 

Gardaí have been keen to stress that the man has been eliminated from their enquiries and is no longer considered a suspect.

“Gardaí continue to appeal for any person with any information on this fatal assault, who may not already have spoken to investigators, to come forward with that information,” An Garda Síochána said.

Over the past 48 hours, ethno-nationalist groups and individuals — representing a form of nationalism where the Irish nation is defined in terms of ethnicity — have sought to capitalise on the outrage over the murder.

On mainstream social media platforms like Twitter and unmoderated ones like Telegram, there has been a groundswell of anti-migrant and xenophobic sentiment in response to the arrest of the man.

Some users have dug up old mainstream media reports about crimes committed by non-Irish nationals based in Ireland.

Others have attacked female commentators who have tied violence against women to structural, societal issues around misogyny.

“Irish Libtard women, who advocate for open borders, are now screeching about how women are no longer safe,” wrote one user in a popular right-wing Telegram group.

The same user called for “justice to be brought on the foreign scum who did this”.

Other users sought to blame Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman — a common target for abuse from the far-right — for the brutal murder.

Separately, in a live stream — links to which were posted on Telegram — a member of one tiny ultra-Catholic, ethno-nationalist group said that many women tried to “blame Irish men” for the brutal murder.

“The NGO class and the political elite were quickly out on social media to blame Irish man and the patriarchy,” he said.

He later added, “If we did deport foreign criminal illegal aliens in Ireland, we wouldn’t have this.”

Later in the stream, he urged viewers to support his group’s activities monetarily by buying a book he had published.

Linking to his group’s online store, he said, “Help us fight the good fight. Help us pay our bills.”

Speaking to The Journal, Aoife Gallagher, an analyst with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue — a London-based think-tank that monitors extremism online — said the groups and individuals in question represent a “toxic version of Irish society” that needs to be rejected.

“The tactics of Irish ethno-nationalists are always the same — if a foreigner is suspected of a crime, they latch onto ethnicity as the primary cause and use it to call for the deportation of foreign nationals from the country,” she said.

“This time it was no different, only the smear campaign they launched across social media, bolstered by the media’s reporting on his ethnicity, ended up accusing an innocent man of the most horrific crime. The groups coordinating this response also showed how little they actually care about violence against women.

They ridicule the genuine responses of those who see this crime for what it is – the senseless murder of a young, innocent woman – and show their true colours by calling women “bitches”, “libtards”, “freaks” or “unhinged”, or implying that there is a conspiracy at play to coordinate a response.

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Gallagher added, “These groups represent an incredibly toxic version of Irish society and their campaigns need to be called out and rejected at all costs.”

‘Ruined his life’

Today, Donal Farrelly, the solicitor who represented the man during his two days of questioning, condemned those who had tried to identify him on social media and said the former’s suspect’s life had been ruined.

Farrelly said, “This man has been vilified on social media and clearly identified on social media.”

The solicitor said his client had endured a “traumatic period” while at Tullamore Garda Station.

“Any form of interrogation or questioning is inherently traumatic,” Farrelly said, “and he’s been through two days of this.”

His client had also faced the “troubles and trauma of social media”.

It has “ruined his life and he has been deeply affected by it”, Farrelly added.

Media outlets, including The Journal, named the country the man had originally emigrated from in reports yesterday. The solicitor said today he did not want to provide details of the  man’s identity other than his age.

— Additional reporting by PA

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