English Defence League has short but violent history

Far right leaders in Britain have Irish links

The English Defence League (EDL), which took to the streets of Woolwich after Wednesday's atrocity, has had a short but violent history and is led by a second-generation Irish man.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (30), known by his nom de guerreTommy Robinson, was at the forefront of the disturbances, which involved between about 60 and 100 EDL members, many of them wearing black balaclavas.

The EDL was set up in Robinson’s home town of Luton in 2009 after Muslims demonstrated against a homecoming parade for British troops. The number of Facebook “likes” for its page tripled overnight in the wake of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby by Islamic extremists, from 25,000 to more than 75,0000. Robinson called for “feet on the streets” after the murder.

Violent demonstrations
The organisation claims to stage peaceful opposition to what it sees as militant Islam, but has been involved in several violent demonstrations.


Another EDL leader, Kevin Carroll, who says his parents come from Dublin, is not the first leader with Irish connections to lead a far- right organisation in Britain, all sharing a general distaste for non-white foreigners and are strongly anti-Islam and anti-immigration.

John Tyndall, whose family came from Co Waterford, founded the National Front which caused much racial tension in the 1970s . The National Front is still active but at a much lower level and has consistently failed to return an elected councillor.

Public face
The most public face of the far-right in the UK is the British National Party led by Nick Griffin. The BNP's high point was the 2009 European and local elections in which the party returned two MEPs to the European Parliament and several councillors.

It has described the real enemies of the British people as the “home-grown Anglo-Saxon Celtic liberal-leftists and the Crescent Horde.”

In the recent local elections in the UK, it was crushed by a resurgent UK Independence Party which has adopted much of its anti-immigration and anti-EU rhetoric and which won nearly 150 council seats.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times