You might think that a government faced with a barbaric public stabbing of schoolchildren and an unprecedented night of rioting in its capital city would extend condolences to the victims, take a deep breath, and try to figure out how a city managed to spiral out of control on its watch. But instead, Thursday’s riots in Dublin were met by a shallow, one-dimensional analysis by all of the key authorities involved: to blame the “far right.”
For example, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris blamed the violence on the streets on a “hooligan faction driven by far right ideology.” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pledged at a news conference to “modernise our laws against incitement to hatred and hatred in general.” And Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that a “thuggish and manipulative element” was using the earlier incident to “wreak havoc.”
The Irish government would have us believe that the most destructive riot in Dublin in living memory was not a symptom of failed governance, but the result of an ideological fringe group going on a looting spree. That is a suspiciously convenient narrative for the powers that be, for it absolves them of all responsibility for losing control of the city. By fingering a Far-Right fringe, public officials can wash their hands of any role they themselves may have played in bringing the city to the brink of anarchy.
But blaming these riots on the “far-right” only serves as an excuse for not engaging in serious reflection about the deeper causes of this incendiary atmosphere, and the ensuing events. These events did not come out of nowhere and cannot be simplistically reduced to the work of a fringe “far-right” mob. “Far-right” talk is an excuse for not thinking hard about what led up to this and how public authorities lost control of Dublin’s city centre.
Of course, any sane and sensible person would recognise that going on a looting spree and setting fire to trams and buses is an absolutely destructive, anti-social, and counterproductive way to react to a horrible crime. And given that there is documentary evidence that some of the rioters used explicitly anti-immigrant rhetoric, yes, there was undeniably an element of “Far-Right” sentiment at work in these riots, if, by that, we mean indiscriminate hatred and anger directed toward immigrants in general.