Black Lives Matter in Ireland

The recent shooting of George Nkencho has re-started the debate regarding Black Lives Matter, racism, the role of the Gardaí and all lives / white lives.  The Connolly Youth Movement has had a few members attend the recent solidarity vigils and many of us have posted extensively on social media on the subject already.  In writing this slightly extended piece, commentary will be provided on a few pertinent subjects that have arisen. 

  1. The Garda are not friends of the working class. 

From Shell to Sea, to baton charging students, to arresting water charge activists to the century long anti-Republican campaigns, the Garda are the police force of the Fine Gael-Fianna Fail establishment. They are stacked with obedient servants that are handpicked based on allegiance. Their role in relation to politics has always been to smash any organisation of the working class.  As I write this, the head of the Garda is an MI5 asset. Go figure.

  1. Even in a liberal democracy, due process is still required. 

It is horrible that somebody was injured by George, but the fact is that a broken nose doesn’t carry the death sentence in Ireland. Wielding a knife doesn’t either and the point is that it’s for a Judge and if applicable a jury to determine guilt and sentencing.  Shooting at somebody fatally should be a final and last resort so the very legitimate question of excessive force has been raised here. Conflicting accounts of the incident cast aspersions on the narrative portrayed by the Garda. Beyond that, we should question what happened anyway

The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act of 1997 outlines the offences and punishments for assaulting somebody or causing them injury.  Fines and imprisonment are the punishments, as opposed to capital punishment. 

In fact, capital punishment was abolished in 1990. Which means that there is no punishment which can lead to death. The point of outlining this is to state that the death of somebody, be they a criminally convicted or not – is truly a final and last resort. 

  1. The investigation will determine the truth… 

We have seen how the State investigates itself. The investigation into the shooting, like into other questionable incidents revolving around Garda conduct will either acquit those who performed the shooting or see somebody sacrificed, but structurally, the Garda will remain the same.  They will keep stopping and searching young people in working class estates. They’ll continue actively harassing members of the travelling community and their reputation will continue to deteriorate in the eyes of many communities in Ireland.  

Unless pressure is applied through protest, petition and social media, then the investigation will go away like many other internal investigations.

  1. The far right has flooded social media. 

Whether you trust the police or the judges, whether you see yourself in a certain political entity, the fact is far right misinformation has flooded social media. Fake accounts, which seem to be largely American have come onto Irish social media and begun, in a co-ordinated fashion to spin the exact same narrative that they spin in America. 

“He had it coming” 

“He was a criminal”  

“The response of his friends and community is over the top” 

On and on it goes.  

The image purporting to show criminal convictions has been pulled out of thin air yet shared around as if it’s true. It has no sources, so it’s basically completely unverifiable. 

Even if he had prior convictions, this does not translate into an automatic death sentence. There are plenty of people on social media sharing the image around / supporting the Garda who have prior convictions, should they be shot dead in their next encounter with the Garda? 

The response of his friends, family and community is completely reasonable.

  1. It’s both a working-class issue and a racial issue 

Chief among the arguments being peddled is that this is not a racial issue. That the Garda would have shot George if he was a white man.   Examples of the Garda not shooting people in situations that were markedly worse exist. The two chief ones that are worth noting is when all Citywest was put under lockdown when a man went on a rampage with a machine gun. The second one is when a young man charged into the Dáil with a sword, claiming he wanted to start a one man uprising. Both are still alive, and the situation was resolved on both occasions. In fact, there are hundreds of articles out there showing examples where the situation was resolved without having to shoot somebody dead. 

Perhaps instead of sending the ERU to confront somebody that was highly distressed and agitated they could have sent negotiators. Perhaps George could still be alive and if he did indeed perform criminal acts, he would go before a court and be tried as anybody should. But we’ll never know, because the Garda fired five times and fatally wounded him.  

The issue of racialized policing is not as accentuated as it is in America, because Ireland, unlike America, was not founded by slave owners and slave traders. Nevertheless, polling regarding how Garda feel about the travelling community reveals deep discriminatory beliefs and views.   What would polling reveal if questions about the Black Irish community were asked? What kind of views do Garda have on young black men in Ireland?  Where is the justice for other young men like Terrence-Wheelock?

  1. What about white lives? Don’t’ all lives matter? 

Of course, they do, but the activists who support or advocate for #BlackLivesMatter aren’t suggesting otherwise. What they are doing is highlighting the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of racism, institutional and cultural towards their communities and that this racism must be actively challenged by everybody.  

My observation on the ‘All Lives Matter’ crowd is that they do fuck all for the homeless, for the hungry and for those being oppressed by the state. That they only seem to manifest themselves as a contrarian force engaging in doublethink. They say ‘all lives matter’ but that isn’t true, because if it was, the ‘all lives matter’ types would be engaged with activism that helps people.  

In a conversation with a relative, she pointed out how Eastern European were sex trafficked and why nobody was discussing this subject and only discussing Black Lives Matter. The point I made in response and the point I’ll make here is straightforward. The All Lives Matter people will never lift a finger to help people who are trafficked, because they are not there to help, they are there to attack other groups such as Black Lives Matters and secondly, the politicisation of certain issues and their entering into the mainstream means that people engage with certain subjects more than others at any given time. Finally, that most individuals are considered about a plethora of overlapping and cross connected issues, to care for something does not exclude interest or care in another subject. 

Conclusion 

As outlined by my comrade in a previous piece on cym.ie https://cym.ie/2020/09/05/to-protect-and-serve/ the role of the police in a capitalist – colonial setting is to crush all dissent; in whatever way it manifests. The criminalisation of young men in working class communities takes on a racial element when these young men are not white. This is done because it allows for the skewering of the narrative along Yankee lines and this is how the far right have been trying to frame the debate here in Ireland. It’s not even subtle.  

It is ironic to see, those claiming the Garda didn’t do what they did because of race, to then turn around and talk of deporting all the African gangs and go on long winded rants about asylum seekers taking their jobs and getting social welfare. Makes it all obvious enough that it is a racial issue for many of the people behind the fake profiles. 

Finally – much has been said of George’s brother giving a speech about finding the Garda that shot his brother. In my opinion, this is a reasonable response to having your brother shot dead by the police. 

P.S The closure of Blanchardstown shopping center for a short while because of a protest isn’t as big a deal as it’s made out to be. Get over it. 

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