Far right ‘making a lot of noise’ but not widely supported in Ireland, Micheál Martin says

Tánaiste expresses Irish Government concerns to Lebanese about lack of progress in bringing to justice killers of Pte Seán Rooney

The far right in the Republic is proving very vocal during the local and European election campaign but that activity is not a reflection of its true size and impact, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has said.

“There are far-right elements but we need to keep it in perspective,” he said. “There’s a lot of people making a lot of noise, but the degree to which that is mirrored or reflected in the majority of people, I would question. So we need to be careful we don’t elevate certain voices to a level they’re not quite at yet.”

While there had been an “unprecedented level of migration, the likes of which we’ve never seen before” the “centre ground” needed to be “robust” in upholding the “basic norms of democracy” against the “weaponisation of migration”.

“My own sense, and gut instinct is that, without question, there is a foreign influence and many actors out there who are endeavouring to sow division in EU member states, create dissension and undermine our democratic norms,” he said.


“We’re not going to be excluded from that because we’re an island off Europe. The far right is far more advanced in other European member states, so we can’t be complacent that we’re going to be any different,” he said, adding Ireland needed to be “very careful”.

However, while expressing the view the far right was being amplified beyond its real scale, Mr Martin added he was concerned about some violent and abusive incidents during the election campaign. This included some candidates and party workers being abused and physically attacked while erecting election posters or canvasing.

There was also the “unacceptable” attack last week on security workers at a site earmarked for modular homes in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, for Ukrainian refugees. Vehicles were also destroyed by arsonists during the incident last Thursday.

Speaking in Lebanon, where he was visiting Defence Forces personnel serving on the Unifil peacekeeping mission, Mr Martin said the security workers in Clonmel should never have been harmed.

Separately, Mr Martin also expressed his concern at the slow rate of progress by the Lebanese authorities in bringing to trial the first suspect for the murder of Pte Seán Rooney, a Defence Forces member shot dead in an ambush while on United Nations peacekeeping duties in 2022.

Mr Martin, who has been in Lebanon since Saturday, on Monday morning metLebanese minister for foreign affairs Abdallah BouHabib in Beirut to discuss the killing and convey the concerns of the Irish Government at the lack of any trial some 18 months after the murder.

“I spoke with the foreign minister, and also with their lawyer representing the minister for defence on the case, we’re very, very concerned,” said Mr Martin, who is also Minister for Defence.

“We want justice to be done. And we want those who committed the crime, killing Seán Rooney and injuring other Irish soldiers… We want these people brought to justice. We’re concerned at the slow pace of the trial. And the Irish people want justice in respect of what happened.”

Pte Rooney (24), from Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal, was killed in an attack on a convoy of Irish peacekeepers in the Lebanese town of Al-Aqbiya in December 2022.

Muhammad Ayyad, the only one of five suspects arrested in the wake of the attack, was charged with a number of offences. His trial was delayed last December when his legal representatives said he was too ill to attend and the proceedings were rescheduled until next month.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times