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Gardaí investigating link between criminals and far-right groups

A number of people arrested in recent months in connection with public order incidents relating to asylum seeker accommodation have criminal records

Gardaí are becoming increasingly concerned about the participation of violent criminals in anti-immigration protests.

Units responsible for monitoring extremist groups have raised fears with Garda management that people with convictions for serious offences are associating themselves with local groups opposed to the accommodation of asylum seekers in their area.

Some of these figures have been arrested for serious offences in the past and, in some cases, are believed to have access to firearms, sources said.

There is particular concern that electoral candidates and people working to provide services for asylum seekers will be targeted in a serious attack in advance of the local and European elections on June 7th, according to two security sources.


This is supported by evidence gathered by specialist gardaí, they said.

The level of violent online rhetoric has also increased markedly in the last three months, with some far-right accounts now blatantly calling for acts of violence against elected officials and asylum seekers.

A number of people arrested in recent months in connection with public order incidents relating to asylum seeker accommodation have criminal records, including arrests for assault, drug dealing, weapons possession, domestic violence and witness intimidation.

In response, gardaí have increased both online and physical monitoring of a handful of suspected right-wing extremists. The Garda Public Order Unit has also received new equipment and training and additional staff to prepare for serious disorder around asylum seeker accommodation locations.

In the most recent incident, on Tuesday night, a petrol bomb was thrown at a building in Tallaght, Dublin which had been earmarked for families seeking asylum. CCTV footage showed a man running away from the building as it caught fire.

The fire was extinguished and minimal damage was caused. Gardaí placed the building under surveillance.

There were angry protests outside the premises later in the day, with some demonstrators threatening gardaí protecting the building, including in one instance threatening to set a woman garda on fire.

Online, the rhetoric has “reached another level”, said one security source. In one public chat forum, controlled by a prominent far-right activist, there was discussion this week of the best way to target state institutions, with one participant suggesting an attack similar to the mass shooting carried out by Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011.

Another discussed using chemical weapons and employing heavy vehicles as “tanks”. There have been multiple posts on similar forums in recent months threatening to kill or seriously harm elected officials.

While no election candidate has been seriously harmed, a number of incidents of threats or intimidation of candidates have been reported to gardaí.

Gardaí are particularly concerned about possibility of violent or unstable people being incited by the growing level of false information being spread online about asylum seekers. In recent months, claims that asylum seekers and other non-Irish groups have been involved in serious criminality have proliferated.

These typically involve claims of immigrants threatening women or children, usually without any sort of proof.

A garda spokesman said the force “has not recorded any significant increase in criminal activity or public order issues directly caused by International Protection applicants at any location where International Protection Applicants are being accommodated, at this time.”

He said that “on the contrary”, any increase in demand for Garda resources is driven by “criminal activity” associated with people opposed to asylum seeker accommodation. These include public order breaches, arson and “the harassment and intimidation of other citizens going about their lawful, daily work,” he said.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times