"Banning them is not the answer"- Paul Murphy reacts to far-right protests outside home
The Dublin South-West TD spoke to JOE.ie about the presence of far-right protestors outside his home on Monday evening.
The Irish public have long looked on at the political pantomimes endured by our neighbours across the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea, with a latent sense of relief that the extremist rhetoric present within both the United States and United Kingdom had largely failed to enter the political ether here.
However, that relief has dissipated in recent times, as an increase in far-right sentiment has begun to eek its way into Irish political discourse.
The latest example of such was the presence of far-right protestors outside the home of People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy on Monday evening, as he and his partner were with their newborn child.
Far right protesting outside our home right now.
We were literally preparing to give our newborn baby a bath. pic.twitter.com/1t7pWiUVXD
— Paul Murphy 🏳️⚧️ (@paulmurphy_TD) April 24, 2023
Speaking exclusively to JOE.ie, Mr. Murphy discussed the incident itself, along with the worrying emergence and proliferation of far-right activities in Ireland.
"We were literally getting ready to give our child a bath and then my partner spotted a crowd of people outside the window with placards and a big tri-colour. There were 10 or 11 people, all of them with their faces covered. They had anti-LGBTQ placards, and one ironically about caring for kids".
The protestors assembled outside the Dublin South-West TD's home at approximately 7pm, and did not begin to leave until roughly 8.30pm, upon which they left a leaflet on Mr. Murphy's doorstep.
"I've never had anything like this happen before in terms of protests outside my house. There has been the emergence of the far-right in Ireland, kind of before Covid you could note an uptick, but I've never experienced this before", remarked Mr. Murphy.
With an increase in prevalence of far-right protests across the country in recent months, the politician spoke to the reasoning behind the protestors actions.
"Protesting outside of our house is an act of desperation. They're losing their support and are doing things that are even more unpopular to try and keep their thing going".
The emergence of the far-right in Ireland:
Despite having little to no representation inside of Leinster House, those sympathetic to the far-right cause have become far more vocal since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The far-right have a toehold in Irish society. There's a few hundred activists on the far-right... and that is definitely an increase on what they'd have had even 10 years ago", stated Mr. Murphy.
However, given the apparent cessation of the Covid-19 pandemic, the debates around issues such as vaccine efficacy and mask mandates which once fuelled the Irish far-right have dissipated, leaving these 'activists' in search of their next cause.
In the eyes of Mr. Murphy, they have found that, and zeroed in on the much-discussed topic of Ireland's refugee policy; "their next issue has been protesting against the arrival of refugees from Ukraine and Syria".
Alongside the recent well-publicised protests around Dublin's North Inner City which centred around the coalition governments welcoming refugee policy, an online movement has also been born to highlight the far-right's anti-immigration stance.
Using the moniker "Ireland is full", far-right sympathisers have taken to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, attempting to spread their extremist ideals and falsehoods regarding the housing crisis being a direct result of Ireland's refugee policies.
However, Mr. Murphy is not overly concerned by such events, and stated that "I don't think the far-right are on the verge of some electoral breakthrough. They don't have broad pools of support, but they do have some active members".
The targeting of the Irish left:
So why is the Irish left being subjected to the ire of these far-right sympathisers, particularly when the left holds no seat at the table within the current coalition government trifecta?
Mr. Murphy believes that it is three central policy tenets upon which the far-right's disdain is built- LGBTQ issues, the welcoming of refugees and tenants rights.
"On the face of it, they're against us because we are pro-LGBTQ rights, they're against us because we are pro-welcoming refugees, and they're against us because we are pro-tenants rights as opposed to landlords", the PBP TD reflected.
"They are targeting the left more than anybody else, I think that's very clear. It's true they've also had protests outside Leo Varadkar's house and so on, but they are definitely targeting the left more", added Mr. Murphy.
The far-right often brand themselves as 'anti-establishment', a label which the socialist politician sees a great deal of irony in.
"I do think the idea that the protestors are anti-establishment is ultimately hollow", said Mr. Murphy, before going to point out his own dealings in the Dáil chamber on the very day of the congregation outside his home, which saw him challenge the government over serious accusations made against one of it's TD's.
"The people targeting the crime and corruption committed by the establishment are somehow the ones being targeted by the far-right".
Safety concerns for Irish political figures:
The protests outside of Mr. Murphy's home are not the first of it's kind within the contemporary Irish political landscape.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has previously been subjected to similar tactics from far-right 'activists', whilst Galway TDs Anne Rabbitte and Ciarán Cannon had cow dung hurled at them back in January of this year.
But the most egregious overstepping of boundaries came last December when Sinn Féin's Justice Spokesperson Martin Kenny saw his family home in Leitrim become the target of an arson attack.
Events such as these have led to recent recommendations by An Garda Síochána made to TD's such as the installation of panic alarms, acting in a "streetwise" manner when out in public, and also the encouragement of wearing "comfortable shoes" in case a situation arises which requires a TD to flee for safety.
"I will be thinking in light of this incident, about what extra precautions I need to take. Although the issue isn't your average person on the street", said Mr. Murphy.
"When I'm out and about, everything is fine. When I'm out knocking on doors, people are willing to talk and chat even if they disagree on policies with me".
Banning protests not an option:
Many may feel that the gathering of a group of political protestors outside a politician's home is a step too far, and requires some form of legislation to be introduced to safeguard their privacy and safety.
And whilst Mr. Murphy agrees that protesting directly outside a TD's home is not an effective or even socially acceptable act, he is unequivocal in his defending of the rights of the protestors.
"I'm not calling for a ban on protests outside people's homes. We don't think people should protest outside people's homes, and I've never participated in a protest outside a person's home. I think it's very bad practice and I'd encourage people not to do that. But I think that banning the protests is not the answer, because that's a very slippery slope".
A self-proclaimed socialist, Mr. Murphy spoke to the threats faced by those with similar political ideologies in other parts of the world, remarking that protests such as this one pale in comparison to their often-perilous situations.
"Socialists have faced far worse in the past and we're not the ones saying we are in the worst situation in the world or anything like it, so we'll keep going with our work but try to do so in a safe way".
When asked to what message he would like to deliver to those who saw it suitable to stage a protest outside his family home, Mr. Murphy delivered a thoughtful final response.
"I'd encourage them to go and take their protest outside the Dáil, which is an appropriate place to protest. But I would also point out the irony that they claim to be standing up for kids but they're protesting outside the home of a newborn baby".
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