James Jackson, The Telegraph, November 26, 2023
Irish police are reportedly investigating Conor McGregor’s social media posts amid rising concerns about the spread of hate speech online in the wake of far-Right riots in Dublin last week.
The Irish capital witnessed its worst violence in decades on Thursday evening, when anti-migrant mobs ransacked shops and torched police cars in the centre of Dublin just hours after three children and a creche worker were wounded in a knife attack.
Police said the unrest came after “hateful assumptions” were made about the knifeman’s identity based on material circulating online and linked the unrest to a “lunatic, hooligan faction driven by a far-Right ideology”.
Their fury was stoked by unsubstantiated reports that the man who attacked the children was from Algeria.
Mr McGregor, an MMA star from Dublin who is known for controversial rants, said he did not condone the riots but called for “change” in Ireland.
Responding to a message from Britain First leader Paul Golding on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling for him to organise a “Freedom March”, Mr McGregor said the violence had “achieved nothing toward fixing the issues we face.”
“I do understand frustrations however, and I do understand a move must be made to ensure the change we need is ushered in. And fast!” he said in a series of posts critical of Ireland’s leaders and the country’s migration policies.
“I am in the process of arranging. Believe me I am way more tactical and I have backing. There will be change in Ireland, mark my words. The change needed,” Mr McGregor added.
While there was no suggestion Mr McGregor was endorsing the violence or the politics of the hard-Right, he also listed a slew of crimes supposedly committed by immigrants against Irish nationals and warned that if the government “do not act soon with their plan of action to ensure Ireland’s safety, I will”.
The posts are reportedly being assessed by the Garda, the Irish police, as part of an inquiry into the dissemination of online hate speech.
‘Our country is at stake’
Mr McGregor’s remarks drew an immediate rebuke from Ireland’s deputy PM, Micheál Martin, who branded them “absolutely disgraceful.”
“Isolated voices like that and voices that are essentially inciting hate and a degree to some extent incitement, are unacceptable,” he said.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar refused to comment directly on Mr McGregor’s remarks, but said the passing of new hate-speech laws had to be put in place.
Mr McGregor, who has more than 10 million followers on X and more than 47 million on Instagram, has taken a vocal stand on immigration debates in recent months.
After the conviction earlier this month of Slovakian labourer Jozef Puska for the murder of 23-year-old teacher Ashling Murphy in the central town of Tullamore, he called for “serious policy reforms regarding Ireland’s immigration and refugee processes”.
Among his demands was the creation of a new task force “with the sole objective of assessing and monitoring all entrants that come into Ireland”.
“Our country is at stake and we will tolerate nothing less,” Mr McGregor said.
‘He’s saying what they like to hear’
Observers said the former UFC champion, who has previously been convicted of assault, may be positioning himself to become a “figurehead of the far-Right.”
“He fits into the myth of the alpha male using violence to get his way, and he’s a multimillionaire. He’s saying what they like to hear,” Bryan Wall, editor of online news outlet The Beacon, told the Telegraph.
Ireland had for years appeared immune to the hard-Right movement that has won influence across Europe in countries like the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland in recent years. But concerns about healthcare provision and housing shortages, among other issues, have increasingly been channelled into anti-migrant rhetoric via social media of late, Mr Wall said.
A report by the Institute for Strategic Discourse, a counter-extremism think-tank, published just days before the Dublin riots said Ireland’s online “mis- and disinformation ecosystem has been successfully co-opted by far-right actors who, after [the Covid] pandemic restrictions eased, have diverted attention towards targeting vulnerable communities.”