Activist Niamh McDonald on combatting the far-right in Ireland

As part of the #StrongerTogether initiative, Hope and Courage Collective coordinator Niamh McDonald spoke about combating the far-right.

Activist Niamh McDonald, looking at the camera and wearing a black sweater.
Image: Hazel Coonagh

As we celebrate Pride Month across this island, we must confront the harsh reality that our community faces; a rising tide of disinformation, scapegoating and hate. It’s time again for us to channel our collective pain and anger into action for social justice. As part of the #StrongerTogether initiative in collaboration with the Rowan Trust and the Hope and Courage Collective, GCN interviewed one of the coordinators, Niamh McDonald, who shared insights into their work in combating the far-right.

The Hope and Courage Collective (HCC), formerly known as the Far Right Observatory, is, in their own words, “a national civil society organisation that works with community groups, advocacy groups, trade unions, activists and academics to stop hate organising in our communities and workplaces.”

“We support communities and civil society to stay grounded, caring and resilient in the face of far right hate, bigotry and extremism,” HCC concluded in their introduction to the Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability and Youth in February 2023.

Niamh McDonald, a coordinator for HCC, furthered, “We also work to build a body of knowledge and understanding across the civil society about the threats of the far right, and to develop strategies and tactics for different organisations and different affected communities.”

Niamh expanded upon her definition of the threat of the far right by describing, “The far right are small, to a certain extent in our country, and we’re in a good position that they’re not in our government or elected seats in any way. But I also think we can’t sit on our laurels in that.”

For example, Niamh suggested, “We’ve seen, especially, that LGBTQ+ hate has always been here, but I think now, as we can see hate and extremists becoming more organised in our country, the hate is becoming more pronounced, more aggressive, more violent, more of a targeted threat. And so, from our perspective the far right works on a number of different things.”

Niamh defined what she called the three main intersections of the far right as; 1) Fundamentalist Christians 2) The anti-science / anti-vaccination crowd 3) The ethno-nationalists, including anti-Islam and anti-asylum seekers.

“When those circles come together and they intersect, that’s kind of what creates the far right,” Niamh added.

The Hope and Courage Collective and Niamh McDonald are dedicated to counteracting that movement by providing victimised communities with knowledge. According to Niamh, the key to overcoming the threat of the far right is to understand exactly what it is they’re doing.

“The far right can present itself in different ways to different communities,” Niamh explained. “So for the HCC it’s about sharing the knowledge that we’ve built up with other organisations and different groups so that they understand how to respond. What we find is that being prepared is the most important part.”

When asked to describe how this threat has been affecting the LGBTQ+ community, Niamh pulled an example from America’s bookshelf. “Why are people going into libraries at the moment trying to remove LGBTQ+ books? A lot of these anti-LGBTQ+, anti-trans movements, are coming out of the US. America’s where an awful lot of the hate is being imported from and shipped into Ireland through a specific framework.”

Niamh concluded by sharing her own advice for communities targeted by the far right: “I think it’s critical to be able to respond in a safe way and keep everybody safe.”

The continued work of the Hope and Courage Collective is supported by Uplift, Irish Network Against Racism, Irish Council of Civil Liberties, Migrants Rights Centre, SIPTU, Unite, Community Work Ireland, Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, Transgender Equality Network Ireland, Pavee Point, National Women’s Council, academics and activists countering far-right extremism.

This story originally appeared in GCN’s Pride issue 378, as part of an ongoing feature on solidarity that was created in cooperation with the Rowan Trust and the Hope and Courage Collective. You can read this interview with Niamh McDonald and other activists in the full issue here


Want to be featured in this special campaign? Share a message of solidarity using #StrongerTogether, tagging GCN or email [email protected].


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