50,000 + March in Dublin Against Racism and For Housing, Health and Affordable Living.

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

Migrant support organisations, trade unions, some political parties — over 50,000 marched in Dublin on Sunday to protest at anti-immigrant demonstrations and the crises in housing, the health service and prices rising higher than wages.

Famous folk singer Christy Moore and veteran civil rights campaigner Bernadette McAlliskey (formerly Devlin) were among the speakers who addressed the rally on Custom House Quay.

Long view of the rally along Custom House Quay after some had already left. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
A large section of the march as passed and still they come. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Context and background

Anti-migrant and anti-refugees demonstrations, including threats of violence, have been seen and heard in recent months in a number of locations around the Irish state with active participation and promotion by fascist and far-Right organisations and individuals.

The anxieties of people about the housing crisis have been exploited by elements of the far-Right in Ireland, attempting to blame migrants and the refugees for this crisis and claiming that “Ireland is full” in addition to fabricating stories about abductions and rape by migrants.

In addition, the Government’s lack of consultation with local communities and attempts at secrecy when moving refugees from the Ukraine into buildings in Ireland have exacerbated the situation and facilitated the work of racist and fascist demagogues.

Some far-Right elements had threatened to counter-protest the anti-racist march but only a handful appeared at the departure point and soon vanished and one lone far-rightist protested along the route. Gardaí were in evidence but in low numbers.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Which side are you on?

Long-time Irish folk-singer and songwriter Christy Moore said he was disgusted by the racist demonstrations, sang a composed ditty talking about “a Gombeen Ireland” before singing a few verses of his Viva La Quince Brigada, celebrating the Irish who died fighting fascism in Spain.

Veteran socialist Republican Bernadette McAlliskey gave a militant speech in which she called on people to identify whether they were on the side of migrants or of the slide to fascism. As a survivor of nine British proxy bullets in 1981, McAlliskey can speak from some personal experience.

A number of speakers made the point that march was a 32-county event, meaning that it represented not only people in the Irish state but also in the British colony. In addition, most Irish trade unions are whole Ireland-wide, as are the main sports associations.3

Traveller4 activist Rose Marie Maugham spoke against racism and of her community’s experience of discrimination and Leon Diop of the Black and Irish group, formed after the Irish mobilisation of Black Lives Matter after the US Police killing of George Floyd.

Ailbhe Smythe, an academic and active anti-racist, pointed out that the antifascist and anti-racist movement is a 32-county one, i.e covering the whole nation. That statement and the presence of McAlliskey reminds us of something very important but often overlooked.

Ireland’s home-grown fascists, the Loyalists, have been here since even before the partition of Ireland and the creation of the Six-County colony. And historically, especially during the 30 Years War here, they linked up with British fascists to attack the Irish solidarity movement in Britain.

The attempts of Justin Barret’s fascist National Party to hold rallies in the Six Counties have been opposed by Irish Republicans and socialists and only succeeded behind colonial police protection (which did not prevent their November congress in Fermanagh being broken up by anti-fascists).

British-based fascists such Herman Kelly, formerly PRO for Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party, is now head of the “Irish Freedom Party” (sic) and British fascist Jim Dowson has also had a presence with Irish fascists such as Niall McConnell and his “Síol na hÉireann” (sic) party.

Very recently long-time British fascist activist Tommy Robinson has been promoting himself as a “friend of the Irish people” and was welcomed to Ireland by some fascists (e.g. Dara O’Flaherty) but also opposed by some others who fear Robinson’s reputation5 will do them no favours.

Possibly even those Irish blinded by racist propaganda might balk at uniting with one who defended the British Parachute Regiment’s massacres of unarmed civilians in Ballymurphy (August 1971), Derry (January 1972) and Springhill (July 1972).

The march beginning, just leaving the area around the Garden of Remembrance (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Bohemians FC banner in Irish (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Of course, then to demonstrate football club impartiality, these Shamrock Rovers FC supporters needed to be photographed.


What struck me most apart from the numbers was that the vast majority of the organisations overwhelmingly represented those who had NOT been opposing the far-Right in their many mobilisations through the years against migrants, Muslims, LBGT people etc.

Indeed, when Le Chéile was being founded, its organisers took care not to invite those who HAD been actively confronting the racists and fascists in the preceding period.

When I asked at the time whether Republican groups and Anarchists had been invited, a Le Chéile representative said they didn’t know but would ask. I heard no more of the matter. At a subsequent rally of theirs, a speaker denounced those who confronted the fascists.

Possibly in response to that situation, Saturday’s march was notable for the absence of such Republican groups6 but if so this was a serious error, in my view. I feel they should have marched there with their organisational banners and one promoting militant opposition to fascism.

If fascism begins to get a hold in Ireland as it did for awhile in the 1930s, the antifascist struggle will need to be a broad one and active antifascists need to participate in broad demonstrations to advertise their program of active and militant confrontation with fascists.

Richard Boyd Barrett was quoted in the Irish Times today calling for people to resist the far-Right causing racist division. However his party, People Before Profit is one of those that has chosen not to confront the Far-Right.

Unfortunately Barrett was also quoted saying that “This State was born in the struggle against oppression.”7 It would be more accurate to say that this Gombeen State was born in the struggle to crush the nascent Irish Republic which, for the time being, it has succeeded in doing.

A number of Anarchists have confronted the fascists in the past, at least in Dublin and there was a strong Anarchist contingent on the march. Unfortunately, one of their shouted slogans was “No borders, no nations!”

This seems to deny Ireland’s right to nationhood and could easily be seized upon by fascists portraying themselves as patriots and defenders of the nation. Nor does it seem reasonable in the age of imperialist aggression to call for the dismantling of borders at this time.

Those observations aside, the turnout of such numbers on an anti-racist demonstration is to be greatly welcomed and must be discouraging for the fascist and racists. However, it will not mean the end of them and while the danger of fascism exists they need to be militantly confronted.

While the Left fails to force the Gombeen class even to undertake the reform of a crash building program of public housing for rent, capitalist attacks on working people’s standard of living look to continue and may provide opportunities for fascists to divert and divide the people.

Equally, the Gombeen class may seek to use the fascists in their historical role as a force to divide the working class in attacking its more vulnerable elements while, simultaneously targeting socialists and socialist republicans, i.e. those with the capacity to provide revolutionary leadership.


Section of the march containing trade union flags and banners (Photo: D.Breatnach)


1For which possibly the original inspiration was a group calling itself East Wall for All, in response to the early anti-refugee demonstrations in the East Wall area.

2“Red with Anger”, a broad campaign demanding rights for the Irish language in the British colony but also for greater promotion of the language throughout the Irish state.

3This is the case not only in the Gaelic Athletic Association but also in the soccer and rugby federations.

4Irish Travellers are an ethnic minority of nomadic lifestyle history experiencing racism and discrimination in Ireland and in Britain.

5Robinson is a long-term British fascist convicted of assault, theft and fraud and was subject to a five-year anti-stalking order. He was a member of the fascist anti-black, anti-Irish (BNP) from 2004 to 2005 and for a short time in 2012, joint vice-chairman of the British Freedom Party (BFP). Robinson led the English Defence League from 2009 until 8 October 2013. In 2015 became involved with the development of Pegida UK, a now defunct British chapter of the German-based Islamophobic organisation Pegida (which was prevented from establishing in Ireland by antifascists in February 2016).

As expected of fascists, many-false-names Robinson is a habitual liar but was caught out when he publicly lied about a refugee teenager attacked by racists, was convicted of libel in 2021 and ordered to pay 100,000 Stg. and costs, on which he defaulted by declaring bankruptcy.

6Sinn Féin is clearly just another Gombeen (i.e. Irish neo-colonial capitalist class) party now and it never confronted the fascists though in October 2020 one of its members was knocked unconscious after he accompanied some friends to oppose the Yellow Vests on Custom House Quay when we were attacked by club-wielding fascist thugs and then by the Public Order Unit.

7 Ireland For All march the beginning of movement for tolerance, say organisers – The Irish Times


Ireland For All march the beginning of movement for tolerance, say organisers – The Irish Times

Thousands protest against ‘hatred and disinformation’ at anti-racism march in Dublin – The Irish Times

Tommy Robinson loses Jamal Hijazi libel case – BBC News


Thousands protest against ‘hatred and disinformation’ at anti-racism march in Dublin – The Irish Times

One thought on “50,000 + March in Dublin Against Racism and For Housing, Health and Affordable Living.

  1. Gardai were very in evidence at the start of the march warning people off leafletting. I got warned myself while doing so for PBP. Shortly after people had leaflets seized off them including PBP secretary Allen. To say we have chosen not to confront the Far Right when we have taken part in counter protests is disingenuous. We already have had an elderly woman physically attacked on a canvass by a Far Right headcase. Organizers have a duty to try to protect people from such were possible

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