Reaction to Dundalk stabbings ranges from sympathy to slurs

Anti-immigrant chants heard outside courthouse where Mohamed Morei was charged

 A group of people scuffled with gardaí and shouted racial slurs at the accused Mohamed Morei as he was brought to Dundalk District Court. Photograph:  Colin Keegan, Collins

A group of people scuffled with gardaí and shouted racial slurs at the accused Mohamed Morei as he was brought to Dundalk District Court. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins

 

There have been two very different reactions to Wednesday’s stabbing attacks in Dundalk which left one man dead and two others injured.

On Friday locals continued to lay flowers at the spot where 24-year-old Yosuke Sasaki was killed. One person left a small can of Japanese coffee in tribute to the young man who came to the town last August.

The municipal council has organised a vigil for Monday evening in memory of Mr Sasaki which will be attended by representatives from the Japanese embassy. And online, a fundraising appeal for the repatriation of his body had raised nearly €12,000 on Friday evening, having set an initial target of €2,000.

But elsewhere, a very different reaction was taking place, which followed the charging of 18-year-old Mohamed Morei with the attacks.

In the US, far-right news sites seized on the stabbings as “Ireland’s first Islamic terrorist attack” despite Garda stating there is, as yet, nothing to suggest the attacks are related to terrorism.

The US news site Breitbart, not noted for covering crime in provincial Irish towns, posted two stories about an attack “by a migrant male”, while the editor of the notorious right-wing conspiracy theory site, Infowars, called it “a potential terrorist attack”.

Britain First, a far-right group that recently came to international attention when US president Donald Trump publicised their anti-Muslim videos, approvingly shared a video of people calling the suspect a “halal c**t”; sentiments echoed by English Defence League founder, Tommy Robinson.

‘Very disturbing’

The anti-immigrant backlash continued on Facebook and in the comments sections of news articles. Its most public display came on Thursday night when a group of people scuffled with gardaí and shouted racial slurs at the accused as he was quickly bundled inside Dundalk courthouse by detectives.

Gardaí were so concerned about the gathered crowd that after the court hearing they put the accused in a different vehicle to the one he arrived in. The original van then drove off, acting as a decoy for the protesters who briefly ran after it shouting abuse.

Posters have appeared around the town since the stabbings, calling them “a direct attack upon Ireland” and terming Dundalk “ground zero”.

“It was very, very disturbing to see the response at the courthouse. I just thought it seemed totally inappropriate in terms of the rudeness and the coarse nature of the whole lot of it,” Dundalk priest Fr Michael Cusack said.

“It’s a very sad time for the families involved. It’s a sad time for Dundalk. But the response has to be one of compassion and kindness and not judgment.

“The internet is a playground for hate in many ways and you can get everybody expressing all sorts of racist comments. We don’t know the facts of the case so it’s way too premature for people to be jumping on bandwagons of condemnation.”

‘Vocal minority’

Last night, local politicians and community leaders said Dundalk is a welcoming town for its large number of foreign residents, many of whom work in Paypal or in the National Pen facility where Mr Sasaki was employed.

“Dundalk has many foreign nationals living and working within it without problem. We need these people despite what these racists have to say,” said Fianna Fáil TD Declan Breathnach.

“What really annoys me is there are people on social media who aren’t even from Dundalk trying to intimidate and divide its people. And that won’t happen because the people are rallying around the family of Yosuke,” Fine Gael Councillor John McGahon said.

“Things like those posters are being done by such a small minority who are giving our town a bad name. Dundalk has everything going for it. There is more in our town to unite us than to divide us.”

Anne Campbell, a Sinn Féin councillor said most Dundalk people were “horrified” by the scenes outside the court, but she expressed concern about a “vocal minority” within the town who she said were capitalising on the attacks.

“Things are a little bit more difficult for a non-white Irish person today. It highlights the work we have to do.”