5 mins


In recent times it has often felt like the shadow of far-right extremists has been looming over our communities. In Ireland, we can see it in the shocking riots that happened in Dublin late last year or the anti-LGBTQ+ library protests that have been going on. When we shift our gaze towards continental Europe and the wider world, it becomes obvious that there too the far-right is gaining ground. But, as Swantje Mohrbeck describes, everywhere where the far-right is advancing, there are also people standing up to defend our communities.

One way people have always been expressing resistance to far-right ideas is through public demonstrations and protests. An especially impressive picture of this can be seen in Germany right now. Since the beginning of this year, the country has witnessed widespread protests of an unprecedented size, with millions taking to the streets.

The demonstrations were sparked by a damning report from investigative journalist group Correctiv, which uncovered the participation of members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in a meeting of right-wing extremists in Potsdam in 2023. At the heart of this gathering were proposals advocating "remigration," aimed at orchestrating mass deportations of foreign-born Germans, including those holding German citizenship. The organisers of the protests have explicitly stated their intention to safeguard German democracy from the AfD's influence.

Impressive is not only the size of the individual protests but also how widespread the movement has become in the short time it has existed. Next to the mobilisation seen in bigger cities, many protests in small towns and local communities can be witnessed. Ash, who went to one of the smaller protests in their hometown said, “I think those protests are a little bit of a wake-up call, but also bring the part of society that is against the far-right a little bit closer together.” He added how important it was for people to speak out when they did, saying: “Speaking up is a very big thing, right-wing extremists shouldn't feel safe to speak about their convictions in the way that it has been happening.”

Fenja, who went to a protest in Hamburg that had to be cut short due to too many participants, highlighted the diverse group of people that showed up in such unexpected numbers. "Some grandparents took to the streets, students were there, people in their mid-40’s and generally people from all walks of life, and that was really exciting to watch."

Ash, remembering their experience at the protest in their hometown, observed something similar. “It was already very full by the time I got there, there were a lot of different people. I haven't been to that many demonstrations, but I think that this was by far the one with the most diverse participants. Lots of families, a lot of older people, teenagers, generally a lot of people I knew, just familiar faces, which was a very nice and comforting thing to see, honestly.”

This importance of strengthening communities and bringing together people from all walks of life is a crucial part of the ongoing fight against the far-right everywhere. As Niamh McDonald, a Coordinator for the Hope and Courage Collective (HCC), whose mission is to help communities in Ireland to respond to the far-right, puts it, “The more people of colour, people seeking refuge, the LGBTQ+ community, single moms, the traveller community, and everyone else is represented in a positive, engaging, fair and democratic way in our communities, the safer everybody's going to be.”

The HCC has observed that, over the past year, the underbelly network of far-right organisers, and far-right actors, has solidified and deepened. This means that the different groups on the far-right spectrum cooperate and work on common mobilisation strategies across the country. Specifically, the far-right protests that are happening in Ireland are not happening in isolation, but are part of a wider network.

According to Niamh, the playbook of the far-right in Ireland mirrors global patterns of far-right behaviour. Especially tactics like the use of fear, disinformation, simple framing, and messaging to mobilise people seem to be the same all around the globe. The important difference is that there is no elected far-right party in Ireland so far, and this is where she sees an opportunity.

She believes “that there's a growth in the far-right, because of lots of issues in our country, whether it's housing, whether it's healthcare, whether it's something else.”

According to her, resolving those problems can prevent a growing sympathy with the far-right. When working to achieve this goal, however, it is crucial that everyone feels included and represented within the conversation. It is only if everyone feels seen and heard that they will also see themselves as part of the solution.

As Niamh puts it: “No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter how you identify, or who you love, we all deserve to live in a safe community and have a warm, secure home."

What is worrying is that, especially while Ireland is entering a new cycle of elections this year, some local politicians, from mainstream and government parties, are beginning to take on the language of the far-right, with some even leading blockades and protests against people seeking asylum to gain votes, instead of working towards resolving the issues that drive people towards this hate and fear in the first place.

Niamh thinks that the one thing we as individuals can do against this worrying development is to get involved in our local community spaces and campaigns that keep the focus on the issues that are relevant, and hold our local politicians accountable. With this comes the importance of voting, because, as Niamh says, “The biggest demoralisation to the far-right right now will be none of them getting elected.”

Across the sea in Germany, the people protesting have similar hopes. Fenja shares, "I think it was important that the protest was done, especially with the hope that it will show in the next elections." And Ash also believes that the protests can change something. “People who just voted out of protest before might get the idea- ‘Maybe I shouldn't vote for the right-wing party because I'm not happy with the current government.’ And the people that just didn’t vote might be more likely to position themselves against the AfD.”

In the face of rising far-right sentiments, the importance of standing together is becoming more and more evident all across the world. By standing in solidarity, amplifying marginalised voices, and championing inclusive values we can forge a path towards a more just and equitable society. In this, it is crucial to acknowledge that activism takes many forms. As Ash rightly points out, "You don't have to participate in a demonstration to show your activism. It's not about pressuring anyone into action; rather, it's about recognising the diverse ways individuals can contribute to positive change.”

Our responsibility as individuals extends beyond mere participation; it encompasses a commitment to challenging discriminatory rhetoric, fostering dialogue, and advocating for inclusive policies. Whether through community organising, voter mobilisation, or grassroots activism, each of us possesses the agency to shape the narrative and steer our societies towards a future grounded in tolerance and equality.

True to Niamh’s motto: “get involved in your local community,” in this collective effort, every voice matters, and every action counts towards building a society where diversity is celebrated, and equality is upheld. As Ash puts it, "If you are genuinely interested in keeping your rights and supporting the rights of other people, of people within the community, then show your presence.

Speak up. Be brave."

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