Gardai boss Drew Harris firmly pointed the finger of blame for the riots which devastated part of Dublin’s city centre at the Far Right. Southern Ireland always had the reputation as being one of the most diverse societies in Europe, especially on St Patrick’s Day when nearly everyone wants to claim they are Irish.
The real danger which Southern Irish society faces is that 2024 could see a political nightmare akin to Great Britain in 1967 when a number of small Far Right groups merged to form the National Front.
With local government and European elections on the cards - and maybe even a snap Dail general election - in Southern Ireland, the chances of any of the existing Far Right groups getting elected are very slim, but what happens if they follow the British model and merge under a single banner?
Perhaps what prevented the National Front and its successor, the British National Party, getting significant electoral success in Great Britain was the voting system itself.
Apart from a few council seats in mainland Britain, the BNP notched up two MEPs in the Noughties. However, could Southern Ireland’s system of how it elects councillors, MEPs and TDs see a breakthrough by the Far Right into Irish politics.
After all, the Dail has a long history of electing a significant contingent of Independent TDs, so could the situation arise whereby an Irish National Front standing on an overtly anti-immigration ticket win a series of seats in Leinster House?
I once interviewed Nick Griffin when he was BNP chairman and he made no secret that he wanted to see the emergence of an Irish National Party in Southern Ireland.
Since its formation in 1967, the National Front in Great Britain has never been able to make any significant breakthrough in the same way that the BNP did in the European elections.
The Right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party, Ukip, and the Brexit Party both won significant seats in the European Parliament in the run-up to and after the 2016 Brexit referendum.
In Northern Ireland, while the National Front has made a number of attempts to organise in the Province, it has not made a significant impact within the loyalist community because the NF could not compete with parties linked to the loyalist paramilitaries.
The NF’s most serious attempt came in the mid 1980s shortly after the signing of the November 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement which witnessed a series of new organisations as unionists and loyalists mobilised against the Hillsborough Accord.
The NF opened a bookshop in east Belfast and sent a member of its ruling national directorate to run activities in Ulster. But when it contested council elections, the party could only manage a handful of votes.
Southern Ireland has not seen a significant Far Right threat since the 1930s and the days of General Eoin O’Duffy’s Blueshirts movement. His movement was seen as the forerunner of the modern-day Fine Gael party, often nicknamed the Blueshirts even though the latter is a purely democratic party.
In Northern Ireland at the same time in the 1930s, the Far Right organised themselves in the loyalist community under the banner of the Ulster Protestant League (not to be confused with a similar organisation which appeared in the early 1990s and formed by murdered ex-DUP politician George Seawright).
Both O’Duffy’s Blueshirts and the 1930s UPL were compared to Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and National Socialists (also known as the Blackshirts), and the Brownshirts in Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
However, the outbreak of the Second World War and the role which many Irish people played in the defeat of Germany also killed off any chance that the Far Right would make a significant comeback in the latter decades of the 20th century.
But the early decades of this 21st century have witnessed a resurgence of the Far Right politically in mainland Europe, especially in Holland, Italy, Hungary, Poland, France, and Austria.
In Southern Ireland, the Far Right has tended to have to largely politically import activists from either mainland Britain or mainland Europe.
But what has been disturbing about the recent Dublin riots was the number of Southern Irish homegrown Far Right activists emerging. The real danger for Southern Irish society is what happens if the Far Right develops from a street organisation into a political movement?
Ironically, the Southern Irish Far Right may make a significant political breakthrough into mainstream politics by adopting the same strategies as Sinn Fein deployed, which has evolved from a single TD in the late 1980s to a situation in 2024 whereby Sinn Fein is on the verge of becoming the largest party in the next Dail with leader Mary Lou McDonald becoming Taoiseach either as part of a majority government or a coalition government with another Dail party or group of Independent TDs.
Likewise, if the Far Right does make an electoral breakthrough in Southern Irish politics, could Far Right activists attempt to repeat any success north of the Irish border in Northern Ireland?
There has always been a Hard Right - as opposed to an extremist Far Right - tradition in Unionism. When the Ulster Unionist Party was the lead party within the pro-Union community, one of its most influential internal pressure groups was the Right-wing Ulster Monday Club, which when it held its 10th anniversary in the mid 1980s, could boast four MPs and numerous councillors.
Likewise, the danger for the Hard Right of Unionism - a position held by hardliners within the DUP and the TUV - is that if it cannot politically neuter the Windsor Framework, or DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson decides on a compromise which involves a return to Stormont with the protocol still in place, then an even more extreme ideology of Far Right thinking may attempt to secure a place in mainstream Unionism.
Indeed, the backdoor for the Far Right in Northern Ireland may come though infiltration of Christian fundamentalist churches using the theology of Identity Christianity.
Identity Christianity comes from the United States and is the favoured theology of the Far Right and especially the Ku Klux Klan. Just as McCarthyism in the USA in the 1950s and 1960s saw the threat of communism as ‘Red Under The Bed’, Identity Christianity sees the 21st threat as being ‘Satan Under The Sofa’ and especially accuses the media of being satanic.
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Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.