In March 2018 a small tourist town in the west of Ireland became the focus of international attention when a local hotel was proposed as a Direct Provision centre for asylum seekers. The people of Lisdoonvarna were thrown into a state of disorientation as the hotelier and the government agreed upon their plan for the town. Shock and frustration turned to anger. Racism was fuelled by fear and propaganda, aided by extremists infiltrating the community. Events were twisted and misrepresented to further the popularity of far-right politics. These misrepresentations have since been used to fuel racism in communities across Ireland.
Nobody predicted that the community of Lisdoonvarna had extreme right-wing connections, but it provided a template for how legitimate community concerns can be weaponised by far-right activists. However, the local community did fight back against these tactics. In Ireland at the Intersection, local community activist Theresa O’Donohoe explores:
- The contractors – the secrecy, elusiveness and indifference of the state and hotelier
- The self-appointed ‘inner circle’ – believing themselves to represent the whole community while harbouring fascism
- The democratic process – and how top-down, exclusive decision-making leaves communities powerless
- The far-right agitators – intent on making the most of the opportunity to infiltrate the disoriented community and nurture racism
- The Direct Provision system – a look at how Ireland treats asylum seekers
- The role of the media – from well-researched and balanced reporting to the propaganda and disinformation circulated across many platforms
- Ireland’s history – mistreatment of the vulnerable and inequality lay a foundation for the divisive tactics of the far right
- The legal system – which has no power to protect people from personal attack, hate crimes and racism
- The intersection – how we are slowly moving away from the view that some lives matter more than others and what we can do next
Theresa O’Donohoe is a qualified mediator and sustainable community development facilitator. She has lived in Lisdoonvarna since 2015. She played a lead role in facilitating the community response to the opening of a Direct Provision centre in Lisdoonvarna and was personally targeted by the far right for her stance. This book is her story, setting the record straight. She has been interviewed by RTE, the Irish Times, The Guardian, TheJournal.ie, Joe.ie and Clare FM for her role in the incident. She has a large social media following, with over 6,000 followers across a number of platforms.