WHEN TÁNAISTE Micheál Martin went on the offensive in relation to The Ditch and it’s exposure of corruption among the political classes, he was careful to do so under Dáil privilege. Martin is no fool and knows that accusing The Ditch of not being “an independent media platform at all”, while also trying to link it to Russia, is only really possible when using the constitutional protections that protect members of the Dáil from possible defamation cases.
He already has form in this. Back in November, when challenged in the Dáil by Cork People Before Profit TD Mick Barry in relation to Nato assessors carrying out an evaluation of the Irish Army in Kilworth in Cork, Martin ended up in a confrontation with Barry, Paul Murphy and Richard Boyd-Barrett. Unable to reconcile the Nato presence with Irish neutrality, Martin made the claim in relation to PBP: “You guys are acting like puppets for Putin’s regime.”
Now, however, Martin and his Government colleagues have the opportunity to act on their evident paranoia and rhetoric in relation to Russian subversion of Irish democracy, outside of the rarefied environment of Leinster House.
In April CitizenGO, the ultra-conservative advocacy group, advertised for the role of a campaigner in Ireland. The job description on LinkedIn is quite banal, talking about the role as being an “exciting position at the heart of one of the most innovative and promising advocacy and mobilization organizations in the world today” and that “it offers a unique platform to help develop and pursue large-scale social change efforts”. The responsibilities, which do not seem all that extreme, include “monitoring world and local events and identifying opportunities for strong campaigns” and “assisting campaign directors in organizing campaign actions and logistics, from ad buys to public petition deliveries”.
It’s only when you reach the reasons to work for CitizenGO that you get some insight into the agenda of the organisation. It claims: “We thrive in risky situations. We don’t let powerful forces like the Spanish Socialist Government or Soros’s empire bully us with legal, brand, or financial threats.”
Since 2001 Spaniard Ignacio Arsuaga has been active in ultra-Catholic and far-right circles, firstly with HazteOir and then using the CitizenGO platform, which he launched in 2013. CitizenGO campaigns in English-speaking countries, with activists recruited globally, and has launched petitions and campaigns in over 50 countries against abortion, sex education and same-sex marriage.
There is also a clear anti-feminist and anti-LGBTIQ thread in the campaign and publicity material used by CitizenGO. It also has links with far-right parties including VOX in Spain, the AFD in Germany and Fidez in Hungary.
One of the most interesting figures involved in CitizenGO is Alexey Komov, who sits on CitizenGO’s board of trustees. Komov works for the Charitable Foundation of St Basil the Great, which Russian oligarch and billionaire Konstantin Malofeev founded in 2010. Malofeev has faced sanctions and restrictions by the US and the EU since 2014 due to allegations that he helped fund pro-Russian separatist groups in Ukraine.
Komov is never far from controversy either. In 2018 the US-based Southern Poverty Law Centre issued a report that included emails obtained by hacker collective Shaltai Boltai (Humpty Dumpty), which show Komov in communication with Roberto Fiore, the co-founder of Italian neo-fascist party Forza Nuova.
The St Basil entity was also behind a secret conference of far-right parties in Vienna in March 2014, which brought together leading figures from the Austrian FPÖ, France’s National Front, Bulgaria’s Ataka party and Spain’s monarchist and radical Catholic Carlist movement.
While Komov is still listed as one of CitizenGO’s board of trustees on the foundations website, they had a stutter step shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine when his name was briefly removed from the website. CitizenGO and Komov might come to regret this as they face the wrath of the Tánaiste’s personal war against all things Russian.