A stabbing by an Egyptian teenager that left a Japanese man dead and two Irish men injured has reignited debates on immigration in Ireland. Irish Nationalist sentiments all too often turned into anti-Muslim racism as news spread that the attacker was a former asylum seeker to the United Kingdom who migrated to Ireland through the British North. People considering themselves as Irish Republicans were not immune to this. But is the ideology of Irish Republicanism even compatible with racism?
In the past two days, since the fatal attack in Dundalk, a rural town in the Republic of Ireland, just south of the inner-Irish border, sections of the Irish population have used anti-migrant sentiments to attack Muslims and asylum seekers, preferably online.
— The Ghost (@an_taibhse32) January 4, 2018
In their world-views, the people fleeing poverty and war in their own countries are the new settlers bringing with them a new Plantation. The migrants are equalised with British colonialists in the 17th century. What is forgotten – or rather ignored – is the fact that the majority of the people fleeing to Ireland nowadays are fleeing social, political, and religious oppression and poverty in former British (and French) colonies themselves.
While all sorts of trolls use Social Media and online platforms for spreading their racist worldviews, it is most disappointing to see publicly known members of Irish Republican organisations voicing similar opinions on political forums in the past days – but also before at other occasions.
The American and French revolutions are the two most progressive events in pre-industrial human history. It was these two events that sparked the flame of Irish separatism for the decades and centuries to come. On 14 July 1789, the populace stormed the Bastille, replacing the tyranny of “Lex Rex, Rex Lex” with the slogan of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” This slogan is as progressive as inclusive – right-wing Nationalism and racism, on the other hand, are reactionary and exclusive.
The United Irish movement represents a coming together of various progressive forces at a period in human history which is now regarded as one of the pivotal epochs in the development in civilization. The American War of Independence and the French Revolution were concerned with national rights and human rights. The groundwork for these changes was prepared by thinkers and writers who proposed a change in our view of people and their place in the world.
Irish Republicanism has over the centuries resisted all attempts to be removed from its place among the “progressive forces of the world.” During the 1930s, Irish Republicanism resisted to be taken over by Fascism; again, in the 1970s, it resisted the embracing of sectarianism. Today, Irish Republicanism must fight anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiments within its ranks and Irish society.
Racism, Fascism, and sectarianism are not only incompatible with Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, since the birth of Irish Republicanism, they are even used to weaken and eventually diminish its progressivity. Again, Ó Brádaigh explains:
These are the challenges Irish Republicanism faced in the 1790s and these are the challenges it faces today. Irish Republican activists and the leadership of their organisations need to understand that they will only achieve what they aim for if they deliver it for all people on the island of Ireland.
The understanding of French influence in Irish Republicanism has resisted all attempts to drag Irish separatism from French Republicanism towards right-wing Nationalism in the past 225 years. It is the duty of the various leaderships of contemporary Republican organisations to educate their activists and future generations in these ideals. Irish Republicans need to fight racism and xenophobia actively in their communities because only a progressive and inclusive Republican movement can call itself the true heir of Wolfe Tone.