New group forms to counter ‘rise of hate during the pandemic’

Coalition aims to provide ‘concerted response to the far right’, says trade unionist

Pictured from left: Bernard Mulvany, Access for All; Brid Smith, People Before Profit TD; Sharon Shiedu, United Against Racism Ireland; Éirénne Carrol CEO of TENI; Orla O’ Connor Director of the National Women’s Council; Liam Herrick, Irish Council for Civil Liberties; Louise O’Reilly, Sinn Féin TD; Ailbhe Smyth, feminist and LGBTQI activist; Lorna Fitzpatrick, President of USI Ireland and Des Derwin, Dublin Council of Trade Unions. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Pictured from left: Bernard Mulvany, Access for All; Brid Smith, People Before Profit TD; Sharon Shiedu, United Against Racism Ireland; Éirénne Carrol CEO of TENI; Orla O’ Connor Director of the National Women’s Council; Liam Herrick, Irish Council for Civil Liberties; Louise O’Reilly, Sinn Féin TD; Ailbhe Smyth, feminist and LGBTQI activist; Lorna Fitzpatrick, President of USI Ireland and Des Derwin, Dublin Council of Trade Unions. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A coalition of anti-racist, anti-fascist organisations and individuals, to counter what it described as “the rise of hate during the pandemic” was unveiled in Dublin on Thursday.

Le Chéile includes the Union of Students of Ireland, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, trade unions as well as several political parties.

Sharon Shiedu, a young black activist and member of United Against Racism, said while verbal and physical abuse were the worst forms of racism, there were others.

“That is not the only way you can be racist. People can just feel they are not racist because they feel they are a good person and only bad people are racist. But then they don’t want to include people who they think they have nothing in common with, because they see you as different.

“That is isolating people, keeping them separate and that is a form of racism in my opinion. I have had this experience in jobs where employers don’t include you in things. It is a choice about how you want to include people or keep people separate. People can be racist without even knowing it.”

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said she was concerned the far-right was “playing on the fear and frustration” people felt during the pandemic. “The exploitation of those fears is very easy in a crisis and can be easily turned against minorities. We have seen and heard speeches that become, ‘We’ve got to keep Ireland for the Irish’. We utterly reject that.”

Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly said: “It’s important we send a strong message across the political parties that we stand for diversity, stand for inclusion and against racism…We must create a space, when we talk to people, to our kids, our grandkids, our parents and friends, where racism is just not tolerated in any shape so people are comfortable calling it out.”

Des Derwin, representing the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, said he was “delighted finally there is a concerted response to the far right. It’s exactly what’s needed - a broad-based civil society and trade union response”.