On the afternoon of Sunday, May 21st, masked protestors sporting a Nazi-inspired National Front flag alongside British Union jacks and other Loyalist symbols had assembled by Portrush Town Hall to scaremonger about asylum seekers, eventually meekly leaving in the face of poor turnout for their racist cause and an overwhelming counter-demonstration organised by Socialists.
This protest had been organised weeks in advance by Mark Brown, the erstwhile leader in the North of Ireland for the British Neo-Nazi group National Front. Brown, who operates on social media often in private groups through the pseudonym Tony Shaw, has carried out a litany of repulsive fascist, racist activities in recent years. Notably organising a “White Pride” march in Edinburgh in 2017, being jailed in 2019 for “a vile racially-motivated assault on a taxi driver” in Antrim and appearing at a Europe-wide Neo-Nazi congregation held at a Belfast concert in March 2023.
Not more than a dozen far-right protestors stood at the scene. Most sporting balaclavas, covid masks and sunglasses to obscure their identities. Their Union Jacks remained hoisted throughout the event. Their centrepiece was a poster depicting Middle Eastern men inside a bus. The red, white and black National Front flag was brought out for a time before the embarrassed protesters acknowledged its toxicity and their failure, choosing to admit defeat and leave.
Opposing the far-right was a collection of socialists from a variety of groups including People Before Profit, ROSA and the trade unions NIPSA and Unite. Numbers amounted to perhaps triple those standing with the far-right. The counter-demonstration had prepared with placards rubbishing the lies spread by the far-right concerning refugees, alongside megaphones used to amplify chants which resoundingly drowned out the sick message of the fascists.
It is the job of all socialists and trade unionists to decisively oppose fascist agitation in communities Vulnerable migrants, just like the Irish emigrant of yesteryear, are not the enemy of the working class nor are they the architects of any of the systemic problems of Irish society.
For those frustrated about housing, these migrants are in no-way responsible for causing our long-standing housing crisis. The government and far-right fascist agitators stand clearly in the way of real remedies to solving our housing crisis, in particular opposing a right for all people to housing.