Ireland is “ripe” for a far-right party to emerge if such a group is able to “sell” its story to the people, a terrorism expert has said.
Dr Natasha Dromey, attached to University College Cork, said Ireland had come to think that it was “almost immune” to the threat of the far-right.
She told a security conference that there has been “a reverse wave” towards intolerance in many countries, including Ireland.
Coming from the “northside of Cork”, which she explained is a disadvantaged part of the city, she said she sees the narrative of intolerance “every single day”.
Speaking at the SAR Consultancy conference on The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism, she said seeing and hearing this was “something scary” and “very dangerous”.
Ireland had historically “mostly stayed clear” of right-wing political parties and Irish nationalism has been very much bound-up with the North. But in recent years, there have been instances of hate speech and intolerance.
“We have seen a rise in hate crime,” she told the conference and cited a recent incident in south Dublin where girls wearing hijabs were egged and attacked by a group of Irish girls.
Dr Dromey, author of a number of books on terrorism, said right-wing parties have not been able to entrench themselves in Ireland.
She said Ireland did not want any situations like the atrocity in Christchurch, New Zealand, last March, when a lone right-wing militant shot 51 people dead.
She said right-wing parties can try to present themselves as representing the fears of the “grassroots” in communities, such as hostility towards Muslims and a belief that foreigners were taking all the jobs.
The case of former Irish soldier Lisa Smith, who went to live in the so-called Islamic State in Syria, is also “putting the fear out there” that right-wing parties or groups could exploit.
On the possibility of a right-wing party emerging, Dr Dromey said: “We think we are almost immune to that threat – we aren't.
She said right-wing groups abroad can use more “people-friendly” language, rather than use overtly racist language, to draw in people.
Dr Dromey said the world was at a “tipping point” in terms of politics and international relations, seen in the Brexit movement and the election and actions of US President Donald Trump – both espousing fear of foreigners and normalising beliefs that were once in the underbelly of society.
She said right-wing groups have an agenda that is anti-immigrant/anti-Islam, anti-establishment and that these groups might claim to be “leaders of the underdog”.
As seen with President Trump, she said they use “conspiracy theories”, such as Mexican immigrants being “rapists” or Muslim immigrants being “terrorists” - all playing into fears of people.
Dr Joel Busher of Coventry University, who has closely studied English nationalist groups, suggested the typical question 'is there a far-right threat in Ireland?,' could be put more narrowly as “what sort of extremist right-wing movement is viable in Ireland?'.
He has examined why right-wing causes gain traction in some areas, but not others. He said this can come down to the “credibility” of the group and their message.
One of the factors, he said, was the linkages local groups have with national or international groups and whether local groups were “savvy or incompetent” in how they put their messages out.