Ireland | 02/16/2022

Ireland 2022 February

Russia invades Ukraine – a look at historical and contemporary international connections between Ireland and the far right in Ukraine and Russia as solidarity effort builds for Ukraine in Ireland

• Journalistslocal antifascists and Hope Not Hate have reported recruitment activity of international Nazis seeking foreign fighters for the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ireland from 2017 onwards. Azov are an international militia (recruits from Russia, Europe, the US and South America) officially made part of the Ukrainian army in 2014. For HNH, Matthew Collins tells us that this connection to Ireland stems from a belief among key figures in the Azov Battalion Misanthropic Division (MD) that the networks used to give sanctuary to provisional IRA would somehow also function as ratlines to/from Ukraine for Nazis exiting Britain to Ireland or reverse. Active in Ireland for MD were; Italian Nazi, Francesco Saverio Fontana recruiting through the eco-fascist organisation ‘Greenline Front’; Denis Ryabtsun, a Ukrainian-Canadian licensed private security employee in Galway; and an American operating on an Irish passport who left Ireland in 2017. These actors concentrated recruitment in Galway and Dublin with particular focus among Polish communities and liaised with C18 UDA man with strong connections to Polish far right in the UK. It should be noted that C18 have a historic connection to police intelligence agents.

• A Beacon investigation reveals Irish businessman in Ukraine, Paul Niland, has a history of downplaying controversy surrounding the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. RTE and Irish Times have sought commentary from Niland about events on the ground in Ukraine since the Russian invasion of Ukraine this month.

• Right Sector flag displayed in the window of a café in Tipperary facilitating aid effort and run by a Ukrainian couple.

Hate attacks

• Davey Fisher of Oldpark, Belfast, Paul Golding and other Britain First actors led a hate campaign against migrants in a Belfast hotel this month. This follows event last July 2021 when former BF member Jolene Bunting and DUP councillor Marc Collins targeted people seeking asylum in Carrickfergus. PSNI are investigating actions of Collins and Bunting as hate crimes.

• 8 men targeted a gay couple in Temple Bar, Dublin with abuse and threats. 50 bystanders failed to act in solidarity as the two men stood their ground.

Splits and schisms as National Party membership plateaus

• Tallaght man Philip Dwyer was booted out of the National Party this month following months of internal division leaving NP leadership feeling undermined. Dwyer, also booted off You-tube is now scrambling for attention on Bitchute and Telegram, escalating his campaigns of hate via public stunts.

• National Party membership continues to plateau despite celebrations of 100-person attendance at February national meeting in Portlaoise.

Peadar panders to Aontú bigots

• Aontú TD, Peadar Tóibín, put a question to the Dáil this month suggesting a connection between “illegal immigrants” and violent, sexual assaults. This moves Aontú into closer alignment with far-right groups in Ireland attempting to exploit the recent escalation of violent misogyny and hate attacks to further their white nationalist agenda.

• Aontú formed January 2019 following a split from Sinn Féin over the abortion referendum. The last attempt by an Aontú member to publicly pursue a racist agenda took place February 27th 2019 when Cathy Gaffney, unsuccessful Mayo candidate, shared ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy content on social media. Gaffney was disciplined and deleted the post. This move is notable for the display of party discipline in holding a very clear line since then between their left economic socially authoritarian yet non-racist position (for e.g. Aontú signed the 2020 INAR anti-racism election protocol) and the free-for-all hate fest of the Irish far right. Tóibíns Dáil question blurs that line and suggests the block of Aontú bigots holding a more populist far right orientation have a growing influence over the party.

Official recognition of police/UDA connection increases scrutiny over UDA/far-right connection

• The Northern Ireland police ombudsman has officially recognised collusion between Northern Ireland police and UDA between 1990-1998. The report “identified eight UDA/UFF members who were linked, through intelligence, to the murders and attempted murders of 27 people. A number of these are referred to in this public statement. All eight individuals were police informants either at the time, or subsequent to, these attacks.”

• For anti-fascists, this development increases the need for our scrutiny over historical and contemporary connections between UDA and the international far-right. As noted already here, Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) magazine ‘Fighting Talk’ report a history of mutual support between paramilitary unionism (UDA/UVF) and international far-right organisations (National Front, VMO, C18) in Northern Ireland since 1970’s. These connections have appeared mostly dormant since the ’98 Good Friday Agreement brought an end to three decades of armed conflict sparked by the British State’s violent repression of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement. In his 2012 memoir of his time in the National Front and BNP, Matthew Collins characterises the relationship between British far-right groups National Front, BNP and C18 and some Loyalists and Unionists in Northern Ireland to be “largely instrumental, not institutional”. British far-right groups have long seen Northern Ireland as a breeding ground for their hate but have failed to establish a long-term base in the region due to their inability to understand the distinct histories, cultures, social groups and experiences that characterise the region. Trademark Belfast point out that the DUP, UUP, PUP, TUV have occasionally occupied that space that a populist or far-right party would fill (2014).

• For further reporting on these connections see Statewatch and Hope Not Hate.