DUBLIN, IRELAND - NOVEMBER 24: Workers clean up the debris of a burnt train on November 24, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland. Vehicles were set alight and shops looted in Dublin last night, following a knife attack outside a school that left five people, including three children, injured.

Violent Clashes in Dublin Highlight Rising Right-Wing Ideology in Europe

I think many Americans were awakened to the real dangers of right-wing extremism when Trump was elected in 2016. The rise of fascist tendencies, fraudulent populism, and fear-mongering was shocking to many of my now-friends. However, it wasn’t really to me, or to most people from marginalized communities. Watching everyone come to the realization that there are harmful segments of the population was truly wild. This phenomenon is not unique to the United States, though. Right-wing groups and movements have been taking over other parts of the world too.

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A horrific incident in Dublin, Ireland is highlighting the dangers of right-wing ideology. On Thursday, a violent stabbing in the capital city left two adults and three children seriously injured. A man in his 50s is allegedly responsible for the attack, though there aren’t clear motives yet. This public knife attack, however, reminds me of other violent acts that are used to instill fear or shock in a population. According to CNN, Ireland authorities aren’t considering this attack as an act of terrorism. But I think there is somewhat of a high bar for terrorism classifications, and this seems like something driven by political motives. We will have to wait and see what the authorities say as they continue their investigation.

Regardless of the motivations behind the attack, it appears that right-wing protesters used the incident to create chaos in the city and country at large. The police force arrested around 34 people in unbelievable scenes of violence and destruction that saw the most riot police deployed in Irish history, according to Helen McEntee, Ireland’s Minister of Justice.

Police (Garda) Commissioner Drew Harris spoke about these protesters during a press conference, where he said, “These are scenes that we have not seen in decades. But what is clear is that people have been radicalized through social media.” Harris described the rioters as “a complete lunatic hooligan faction driven by far-right ideology.”

The riots were likely incited by false rumors on social media that the attacker was a foreign national, which gave anti-immigrant rioters an excuse to cause havoc. Like many European countries and America, far-right factions have targeted immigrants and refugees, using them as scapegoats for everything from rising violence to economic struggles to housing shortages. These right-wing protesters took to the streets with signs that read “Irish Lives Matter.”

Does that sound familiar? More disturbing were chants that reeked of xenophobia, including protesters yelling “Get them out.” McEntee tried to give an early description of their intentions, saying that protesters were “using this appalling attack to sow division and wreak havoc in the city.” Divide and conquer is a tactic that has been around forever and is sadly quite effective. When people do not have answers for real problems like inflation or climate change, scapegoating minorities is a go-to strategy. We have to be aware of this.

These angry individuals set a police car on fire. They looted stores. They did things that Conservatives love to accuse others (minorities) of doing. All of the motivations are not clear yet, but the fact that the commissioner has used “right-wing” to describe them, as well as terms like “riotous mob,” shows that this area of the world is facing similar hateful factions that we will have to politically and culturally defeat. 

This comes after a strong showing in parliamentary elections for right-winger Geert Wilders in the liberal country of the Netherlands. His Party for Freedom had big victories and even though they may not be able to form a full government, this shows that right-wing ideology is on the rise in Europe. Geert and his followers are anti-immigrant, similar to the protesters in the clashes in Dublin. Geert is often described as the “Dutch Donald Trump” and his bigotry also extends to a common right-wing target: Muslims. Trump had his “Muslim ban” and Geert has promised to ban the Quran itself. I do not know how this would even logistically happen, but that’s not the point really. The point is to stir up hatred and fear in order to wield power. 

From Dublin to the Netherlands to the United States, we are continuing to see these radicalized segments of society pose real threats to the safety and security of all of us. We must realize this isn’t unique to our country and remain diligent against the rising tides of fascism and white nationalism. 

(featured image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

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