On Saturday, 10 August we gathered to protest hate speech, fascism and extremism. My speech:
Fear eats the soul. Fascism eats the soul of every country where it takes hold, by breeding fear, and hate, division and brutality.
This country voted overwhelming for LOVE. This country voted overwhelming for COMPASSION. We voted for the rights of people to be different from us, to make their own decisions. The Irish people did not vote for hate.
Irish voters have rejected fascists – they have no democratic mandate here. Yet they continue to attack those who have a legitimate mandate. Hazel Chu is Irish, and she has a democratic mandate. The fascists pedal the most ridiculous false mythology of what it is to be Irish – (and yet they’ve the gall to talk to us about unicorns!!)
Anyone who knows anything about Irish history recognises that we are a nation of immigrants. It is profoundly hypocritical, and dishonours our history, and the struggles and successes of millions of Irish people around the world, to attack immigrants and refugees living here now.
Those of us who believe in democracy, we must continue to strive for what is best about us, not be torn apart by fake divisions. We must continue to honour our democracy, honour our common humanity and decency. We must say NO to Hate.
Words matter. Violent words lead eventually to violent despicable actions. Freedom of speech is a right, but each and every one of us is responsible and accountable for our words and the actions they may provoke. Those who pour bile on our streets and over social media must be held to account.
We urgently need to have more robust laws in this country to address hate crimes and online abuse.
Tormenting the vulnerable in society is not strength. Strength is upholding the rights of the most vulnerable. Courage is not picking on people’s differences to demean them, courage is standing up to intimidation. True freedom of speech is not abusing that freedom to denigrate others, it’s using it to increase our mutual understanding, to bring light not fear.
Democracy is about choice, equity, and our responsibility to each other. So beware of those who only want to empower themselves to disempower others. Beware of those who dress themselves up as anti-corruption when all they do is corrupt the truth and make empty noise, disrupting residents here on Barrow Street, harassing people going about their daily work, and abusing people online.
They want to keep us distracted by using far-right tactics of blaming and shaming minorities and vulnerable groups – immigrants, refugees, trans and gay people, travellers, feminists, those with disabilities. We are wise to their tactics, and we reject their fear-mongering.
They want to keep us distracted from addressing the real causes of inequality in our society, the real challenges we face with housing, homelessness, healthcare, and climate breakdown.
Science is real. Vaccines work. Facts matter. Diversity is strength. We will dispel their hatred with our rainbows.
Today and everyday, we reject extremism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and sexism. We will not be distracted from building a better, fairer, more humane, inclusive, and equitable Ireland – for all who live here now and in the future.
We are a people moving towards Love, we are a people moving towards Compassion, Kindness and Peace now, we will not be dragged back into the division and acrimony of the past.
From this street of the River Barrow, to every street beyond, today we say NO to fascist propaganda. Today we say NO to intimidation and baseless lies. Today we say NO TO HATE.