Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

February 18 2023 – Tens of Thousands Demonstrate Against Racism and the Far-Right in Dublin

leave a comment »

Brendan Ogle (UNITE Trade Union) introduces film highlights of the February 18 2023 Ireland for All Solidarity March in Dublin :

A diverse band for sure, an eclectic mix of the great, the good and …well. The point is Ireland 🇮🇪is about ❤️ not hate.

Get the hate off our streets.


(Put together by the brilliant @martinblake) :

Photos of the demonstration – special thanks to Mike Finn and Maeve Foreman :

The final Ireland For All march endorsement list is complete : 117 organizations, some of them extremely large. 

The march received extensive coverage on mass media outlets, for example the February 20 2023 issue of the Irish Times :

Úna Mullally wrote an excellent summary of the issues :

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had no visible presence at Ireland for All march

“Reassuring” was a word I heard a lot on Saturday. The Ireland for All march, calling for “diversity not division” and organised by Le Chéile — “a cross-sectoral alliance working together to challenge the far-right in Ireland” — was an emphatic display of unity and resistance to division countrywide. Just as diversity and equality are signs of a healthy society, the eclectic nature of the march also offered a broad snapshot of an inclusive, motivated and mobilised Irish public.

While people waited to march from Parnell Square, the demonstration, in the tens of thousands, got under way, stretching the length of O’Connell Street. It was huge. It highlights that while racist and far-right elements may make a lot of noise, and are dangerous, localised protests and online sabre-rattling do not enjoy significant representation in the real world. The claims that such entities represent a “majority” are clearly entirely bogus.

There is no room for complacency, which is why the protest was so powerful. People are taking a stand right now, not waiting around for those stoking racism to further impinge on people’s safety, or for ugly, nihilistic thinking to take hold in a significant way. Long may this resistance last.

At Custom House Quay, an uplifting festival-like atmosphere took hold. Leon Diop, the co-founder of Black & Irish, quoted John Hume: “Difference is the essence of humanity.” Darragh Adelaide, the young People Before Profit representative for Clondalkin, and a fantastic speaker, astutely pointed to the cynicism of the far-right, referencing Tricolours at anti-refugee protests, saying if those waving them as a marker of identity knew their history, they would know that our flag is a symbol of unity, not division.

The young disability activist, Sophia Mulvaney, spoke movingly about the doctors and nurses from all over the world who have cared for her in Ireland, “Why would we want to cause people so important in society to feel unsafe?” she asked.

In the crowd, someone wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, Anyone In Your Family Living Abroad? watched on. On the bridge at Tara Street, a group of older men stood behind their banner, Grandfathers Against Racism. A fellow protester walked by carrying a colossal St Brigid’s cross. Queers Against Fascism was another placard. No More Blaming Refugees For Government F*** Ups, another sign declared. Another one, Racist Attacks: Not In Our Name. A chant, “Blame the system, not its victims.”

While the flags and banners of unions and community groups, People Before Profit, the Social Democrats, Labour, Sinn Féin, and the Green Party were evident, a visible representation of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael was nowhere to be seen. While some Government politicians have made strong statements against racism, there is a sense that both parties are unsure of the public temperature on immigration. There was also a profoundly anti-Government sentiment at the march. The housing crisis loomed as large as a refusal to allow the scapegoating of those who had nothing to do with creating it.

We were proud to stand with @LeCheileDND and all involved in the #IrelandForAll march yesterday, calling on the government to take action and make a more equal and fair society for all.— PWO Ireland (@PWO_Ireland) February 19, 2023

Political capitulation to fearmongering by anti-refugee protesters would be a colossal failure of decency, social cohesion, and civic responsibility. It would also be, as the size of the protest showed at the weekend, a deeply unpopular approach. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s right-wing populist tendencies on certain issues, his inability to read the room, his lack of foresight when it comes to consequences, and his propensity to say the wrong thing at the wrong moment, was evident in his recent comments around migration.

“I think when it comes to migration, we need to be fair, firm and hard,” he said. This rhetoric — “firm and hard” — along with his repetition of Tory and Trump-like soundbites on “criminal gangs” and “human traffickers” offer an opening for far-right talking points. If he doesn’t know that, he should. And if he does know it, and is saying it anyway, then that is incredibly depressing. We needed the leader of the country to diffuse the heightened atmosphere. Talking about “hard” immigration policy means nothing, but it is a telling soundbite. Varadkar has also made firm comments against racism and the demonisation of people coming into the country. But the Taoiseach needs to demonstrate cop-on and consistency.

Although the coalition that marched on Saturday was broad, and the bulk of the crowd was made up of ordinary people whose main affiliation was to empathy and kindness, it is worth mentioning People Before Profit’s leadership on the ground over the past while. Representatives and members of the party have been committed, mobilised, consistent, engaged and unwavering in their resistance to the racist and xenophobic sentiments that have been bubbling up. At a grassroots level, and in the Dáil, they have shown integrity and dedication.

Saturday is also more evidence — perhaps a consequence of recent social movements — that people in Ireland will coalesce as much around values as they will around issues and policy. By showing up, those who marched at the weekend can feel pride in their own presence. And looking on, it’s hard not to be proud of their vision for the country.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: