The far-right activists who attended the recent Call to the Dáil protest outside Leinster House were an eclectic bunch. While there were National Party, Irish Freedom Party and Ireland First activists in attendance, most of the 150 or so protestors showed no sign of party affiliation.
Much has been made by the mainstream media of the confused nature of the demonstration. There were a large number of protestors wearing camouflage, many with faces obscured by hoods, masks and hats, and there were a variety of issues being raised such as immigration, trans rights, hate speech legislation etc. But that was the point of the mobilisation.
The organisers aimed to bring together the various strands of the far-right ecosystem in a show of strength as the various right-wing parties and independents start building towards the local and European elections.
Early in the day, one of the Call to the Dáil protest organisers, Ferg Power, tried to put a brave face on it claiming it was a “great turnout here today”. He added: “There’s more on the way over from the Customs House.”
These reinforcements turned out to be Malachy Steenson with a dozen or so protestors carrying an ‘East Wall Says No’ banner and wearing Anonymous masks painted over with the colours of an Irish tricolour. The next day Steenson accepted that the “numbers were disappointing and, you know, we have to recognise that and analyse why that was”.
This is a key point. The hundreds who have come out to protest the opening of asylum centres in communities around the country did not believe that travelling to Dublin to protest against TDs as they returned to the Dáil following the summer recess was time well spent.
Nimbyism in terms of immigration does not necessarily build a far-right coalition. In the same way as many who complain about Traveller halting sites being substandard do not want them opened in their community, many who marched against asylum centres believe that Ukrainian and international protection applicants should be accommodated – just literally not in their back yard.
The controversy surrounding the Call to the Dáil protest due to the harassment of Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae as he was escorted down Kildare Street or the confrontation between protestors and Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire grabbed the headlines. However the reason for the crowd lashing out was the fact that attendees were frustrated that their protest was far closer to a damp squib than a January 6 White House insurrection.