Fintan O’Toole: Fascism lurks beneath the surface of Irish society

Avoiding hatred is not about being nice to Travellers but about preserving democracy

‘Hysteria can turn moral decency into hatred, and hatred can make monsters of us all.’ File photograph: David Sleator

‘Hysteria can turn moral decency into hatred, and hatred can make monsters of us all.’ File photograph: David Sleator

“The first thing that strikes anyone driving around the Tallaght area or the people who live in Tallaght is the barricades, the barrels and the watches which have sprung up at the entrances to estates. Five roads have either been completely blocked off, or blocked off in such a manner that you can only enter or leave if you are allowed to do so by the people who are manning the barricades. What is evident is there is a breakdown of the rule of law and that power and command have been taken over by self-appointed residents in the various estates.”

 This is not some dystopian novel. It is Mary Robinson, speaking in the Seanad of which she was then still a member, on June 24th, 1984. She was describing the reality of daily life in the burgeoning suburb of Dublin: roadblocks, barricades, whole estates taken over by vigilantes. At this time, a part of the capital city seemed to be slipping out of the control of the State. The Garda had effectively given up trying up trying to assert any authority over what was happening. The atmosphere was tense, ominous and heavy with threat.

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