In my year or so as a columnist with TheJournal.ie, no-one has ever asked for a “right-to-reply” before. It’s strange, then, that Identity Ireland’s right-to-reply response to my column about them doesn’t actually address or reply to any of the points I raised.
I’ve been lucky enough to write a column for TheJournal.ie for just over a year now and – between ourselves – I consider myself preposterously fortunate to have the privilege of having a voice in the national media. That’s an honour I owe entirely to TheJournal.ie’s editor Susan Daly – who gave me the job – and to Jennifer Wade – who was my line-editor and whose wisdom and advice kept me in the job.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a column (“Time for Ireland’s new anti-immigration party to answer difficult questions about its members“) pointing out – among other things – that Ireland’s new, anti-immigrant political party Identity Ireland had chosen to launch their movement on the 22nd of July, the anniversary of the Utoya massacre.
“Identity Ireland, an anti-immigration party, was launched… on 22 July, a hugely significant date. It is the anniversary of the murders of seventy-seven people by the far-right Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.
“Four years ago, on the 22nd of July, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people. He then travelled – disguised as a policeman – to Utoyaicial: Island where he shot dead 69 young people.
“On the morning of the attacks, Breivik laid out online a sprawling manifesto of hatred which encompassed his extreme nationalist views, his Islamophobia and his opposition to immigration, feminism and multiculturalism.
“Launching an anti-immigration movement on the anniversary of the Utoya massacre, though? All a pure coincidence, according to Identity Ireland, who say they hadn’t realised the significance of the date.
“You would have to imagine that anyone launching a right-wing anti-immigrant political movement on the anniversary of the Utoya massacre could only choose to do so for two possible reasons.
“Either they are deeply sinister individuals bent on showing solidarity with racist extremists whilst sending a not-very-subtle message of terror to immigrants; or else they are profoundly stupid people lacking any sense of history or self-awareness. Those possibilities are, of course, not mutually-exclusive.”
Online, Identity Ireland and their fans were not slow to respond. On Twitter, on Facebook and in TheJournal.ie’s comments section, they howled that I am variously, anti-Irish, anti-white and – no kidding – a Martian. My linking the launch date to the anniversary of the Utoya massacre was the starting point for most of the outrage.
One defence made repeatedly on Twitter was that the date was a coincidence and one mandated by the office of the Clerk of the Dáil. The 22nd of July was (depending on the claimant) either the last possible date they could apply to register as a political party (perhaps prior to the summer recess?) or indeed the only date on which they could do so.
(I was also told that the Social Democrats launched on the same date so why wasn’t TheJournal.ie calling them far-right extremists? Um, no. The Social Democrats launched their party on the 15th of July.)
Now, I wouldn’t be the optimum measurement of whatever your metaphor in the appropriate receptacle is, but I’m not entirely stupid. The Identity Ireland lads say they launched their right-wing, anti-immigrant party on the anniversary of the Utoya massacre because the office of the Clerk of the Dáil forced them to do so and it’s all a coincidence, move along folks, don’t be listening to our alien insect overlords in the EU forcing the blacks on us.
There’s an easy way of clarifying this.
I emailed the Clerk of the Dáil’s office and asked: “Is there a deadline after which it is not possible to apply to register as a political party? Is there a particular date upon which those wishing to apply for the status of political party (have to do so) or is this something which can be done at any time of the year?”
The Private Secretary to the Registrar replied: “There is no deadline after which it is not possible to apply to register as a political party. There is no particular date upon which those wishing to apply for the status of political party – this can be done at any time of the year.”
I asked: “Just to clarify, the date of their launch would therefore have been their own choice and not an imposition by your office, as they claim?”
She responded: “The date of the launch is a matter for the party concerned.”
Peter O’Loughlin’s rather strange right-to-reply piece (“We need to take back control of our country before it’s too late”) takes the form of a manifesto of Identity Ireland’s bizarre imaginings of an international conspiracy to drown Ireland under a wave of brown people. It’s paranoid, delusional and borderline-unreadable but as a right-to-reply it fails to respond to a single one of the points I made.
To be honest, Mr O’Loughlin outlines the flaws in Identity Ireland’s thinking far better than I could, so I’ll just stick to the original point I made. Of the 365 days available to them, Identity Ireland chose to launch their right-wing, anti-immigrant party on the anniversary of the Utoya massacre.
So we’re back to the simple question:
Are Identity Ireland sinister, racist thugs or are they historically-ignorant idiots?