Majority of far-right online posts about Ireland originate abroad, research shows

Far-right and anti-immigration posts about Ireland increased in number following the knife attack that led to riots in Dublin.

This article is about far-right online posts about Ireland. In the photo, a protest held against the violence that broke out in Dublin on November 23, with a sign that reads
Image: Via X - @INTOnews

According to a recent analysis of social media traffic, most online posts featuring far-right and anti-immigration slogans such as “Ireland is full” and “Irish lives matters” are shared by users outside the country, mostly from the UK and the US.

As reported by The Irish Times, the research was conducted by Sam Doak, from disinformation fact-checking organisation Logically Facts, who analysed the use of three slogans connected to far-right and anti-immigration views about Ireland in online posts shared on X, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit in the last month. The three slogans included in the research were: “Ireland is full”, “Ireland belongs to the Irish” and “Irish lives matter”.

Doak’s research highlighted the role of international far-right figures in amplifying anti-immigration sentiments in Ireland, particularly after the events on November 23, when violence and destruction broke out in Dublin following a brutal knife attack that took place in the city centre, where three children and two adults were left severely injured.

Following the attack, unconfirmed reports that the perpetrator was an immigrant led far-right agitators to whip up a frenzy on social media, urging people to protest. The violence escalated, with rioters attacking police officers, setting cars and public transport on fire, and smashing and looting shops. Many were chanting anti-immigration slogans while carrying out the destruction.

Over 30 people have already been arrested in connection to the riots, and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that more arrests are expected. He also said that an investigation is underway on the role of far-right online instigators in the Dublin riots. Gardaí are examining social media posts from several accounts to determine whether there was incitement to violence, hoping to find digital evidence that could lead to more arrests.

According to Doak’s research, the use of the three anti-immigration phrases increased dramatically on social media after the unconfirmed reports on the nationality of the knife attack suspect started circulating. However, the research also noted that the combined use of the slogans outside Ireland was far greater than their use among Irish social media accounts.

“Users in the UK and US were very, very highly represented. Which was strange because with hashtags that are very geographically specific, you wouldn’t expect to see that kind of spread,” Doak explained. “These three hashtags have been heavily boosted by users in the US and UK. Taken together, UK and US users accounted for more use of the hashtags than Ireland.”

The use of the phrases could also be detected on a much smaller scale in India, Nigeria and Spain. Among the three, “Ireland is full” was the most popular slogan, used almost 32,000 times by Irish accounts and about 33,000 times by UK and US users.

“Ireland belongs to the Irish” was detected in around 10,500 posts shared by Irish users and in over 20,000 posts by US and UK users. “Irish lives matter”, a phrase that only became popular after the events of November 23, was shared 7,000 times in the US and UK compared to just under 4,000 in Ireland.

The popularity of this last slogan is likely linked to the fact that it was shared by a US X account called ‘Catturd’, which instructed its 2.1 million followers to make it a “trend”. The account is run by right-wing online personality Phillip Buchanan, from Florida, whose posts are frequently amplified by Elon Musk.

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