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Taylor Swift Sam Melia

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THE PLIGHT of British far-right activist Sam Melia – who was convicted in January at Leeds Crown Court for inciting racial hatred and intentionally encouraging or assisting racially aggravated criminal damage – has incensed many agitators on the far right of Irish politics.

Melia has been active on the far-right scene in Britain for almost a decade, firstly with National Action (now banned), then For Britain, followed by Generation Identity and in recent years as a regional organiser for Patriotic Alternative (PA).

His conviction last month, however, was a result of a secret side project he developed in addition to his activism for PA. He established an online network, the Hundred Handers (HH), which designed stickers and then urged supporters to print them off and paste them in their local areas. Melia was obviously aware that stickers with slogans such as “Blood and Soil”, “Save the World. Sink the Boats” and “Make America White Again” would be illegal but was confident of the security of the platform boasting: “We are completely anonymous and our structure and rules provide protection from infiltration.”

An exposé by HOPE Not Hate in 2020, which identified Sam Melia as the man behind HH, saw the group quickly ceasing to function.

Irish far-right agitators such as Keith Woods (pseudonym of Roscommon man Keith O’Brien), Gavin Lowbridge and Philip Dwyer have posted and shared multiple messages on their X and Telegram channels regarding the dire straits in which Sam Melia now finds himself. The motivation to post about Melia’s predicament was laid bare when Woods declared on X: “Disturbing. Will also be Ireland’s future under hate speech laws”.

Woods, a National Party member, and other far-right actors’ anxiety about the implementation of the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 has led to a relentless online campaign against the legislation. These hate speech laws were due to have been in place by June 2023 but, due to mounting public comment on the legislation, it was pushed back until the autumn. When the Dublin riot broke out on November 23, however, the laws had still not been enacted. In the aftermath of the riot, justice minister Helen McEntee said she intended progressing the bill early in the new year.

Also in the aftermath of the riot, a clearly agitated Woods published a 53-minute video on social media, in response to articles that mentioned him by Conor Gallagher in the Irish Times and David Gilbert on Wired.

Woods was determined to establish that he had nothing to do with inciting the riot in Dublin and in the video he reads out a response to questions he received from Gallagher regarding antisemitism: “No, I’ve never described myself as an antisemite. I’ve never identified as an antisemite”.

In the almost hour-long monologue, an emotional Woods refers to Gallagher’s mention of the white nationalist Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which argues that there is an intentional effort to promote mass non-white immigration, inter-racial marriage and other efforts to replace white European or American populations. The theory was first popularised over a decade ago by French author Renaud Camus and Woods claimed it is factual and that it is not antisemitic.

Over two months on from the riot and still no hate speech laws in place, Woods launched a new video on his social media channels on Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27. The video title asked the question: ‘Who’s behind the invasion of America’s southern border?’ He argues that the arrival of illegal immigrants in the US under the Biden administration is due to the policies pursued by homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who Woods described as being a member of a “Cuban Jewish family”. He also claims that this immigration is facilitated by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Also on Holocaust Memorial Day, Woods’ former leader in the NP, Justin Barrett, released a short clip of a Taylor Swift song, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ with an AI-generated image of Swift dressed in a Nazi-style uniform and the text “Never Again is Now 27th January 2024, #HappyHolocaustRemembranceDay.”

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