On Thursday, April 6, protestors targeted Swords Library in Dublin 11, objecting to the availability of certain LGBTQ+ books. The demonstration took place under the supervision of An Garda Síochána, with witnesses claiming that a number of members of the organising group were escorted inside the facility by authorities, where they reportedly confronted staff for roughly 15 minutes.
The protestors are said to be representatives from the Natural Women’s Council, Irish Education Alliance, Parents Rights Alliance, Lawyers For Justice Ireland and Hold The Line, with certain attendees described by Twitter users as “violent fascists”. They objected to six titles in particular, including This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, and Trans Teen Survival Guide by Fox Fisher and Owl Fisher.
A crowd of a similar size gathered on the main street opposite Swords Library, joining People Before Profit’s counter-demonstration “in support of the LGBTQ+ community”. The political party handed out leaflets to onlookers, saying that librarians and teachers were being subjected to “hate-filled attacks by right-wing bullies and conspiracy theorists”.
The document also said that to accuse library staff of providing pornographic material to children, as was claimed by the other crowd, was “insulting to their professionalism”.
Outnumbering the book burners in Swords. pic.twitter.com/Y8KDRBnIMo
— Des Topia (@LeftistDad) April 6, 2023
Responding to the Irish Examiner, a spokesperson for Fingal County Council confirmed that there were roughly 30 people in each group, adding that both “walked down Main Street, Swords, on opposite sides of the road…The first group handed in a letter to the Fingal County Council offices before continuing to Swords Library. They engaged with staff at Sword Library on the Rathbeale Road and then dispersed.”
The council reinforced that “public libraries are trusted and valued assets at the heart of the community dedicated to serving everyone’s information needs,” and that parents and guardians “are responsible for their children in the library, and for their children’s selections and use of library materials and services, including access to the internet and online resources”.
“For this reason, parental consent is required when a child joins the library and further consent is sought before members move age category,” it continued.
Solidarity with the counter-protesters at Swords Library today. The far-right fascists showing, once again, that they are anti-worker by harassing and terrorising librarians. Added to the news today that This Book Is Gay will be removed from the RSE resources, https://t.co/q4BFRs3Yry
— Trans & Intersex Pride Dublin 🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈 (@DubTrans) April 6, 2023
Gardaí confirmed that no arrests were made at the demonstrations, adding that its role was “to ensure peace and public order” was maintained. However, the force has faced criticism in the wake of the event, due to its alleged involvement in allowing protestors inside the facility.
In addition to the local LGBT+ community, we also wish to express our solidarity with library staff around the country being abused.@GardaTraffic @loreillysf @joefingalgreen @DarraghOBrienTD @PaulaHilman @drlucymichael @CorkLGBTweek @LGBT_ie @DublinPride @aoifegall #Swords
— NXF (@nxfie) April 6, 2023
Fingal County Councillor, Karen Power, expressed her concern over these reports, saying: “It would be worrying if that was the case because the group that organised it said they were going to remove books and destroy books, not borrow them. If they couldn’t get access to the books they made it clear they would intimidate staff.”
Similarly, Councillor John Burtchaell condemned the Gardaí’s escort of “people with a record of intimidation and harassment of library workers and users and who have destroyed LGBT books,” into the building.
“There are major questions and public concern about these Garda tactics towards the far right and it’s necessary for the Council to discuss an approach going forward in all our libraries to protect workers, the general and the integrity of the library from far right agitators,” he said.
“The far right and fascists are showing they are not alone dangerous racists, but also homophobic and want to take society backwards to the days of censorship and of keeping young people in ignorance and shame. We need a movement to stop them, not have the state facilitating them.”
Fingal For All, an activist group present at the protest, said it would be meeting with authorities today to seek an explanation for their decision.
This incident comes as reports of library protests in Ireland increase, with facilities being advised to up their security to protect from people trying to remove books from shelves.
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