Last week it was announced that a group called PEGIDA (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) will, with the assistance of political party Identity Ireland, be launched this Saturday, February 5th. The group is of German origin and its name translates as ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident’. If you find yourself in Germany, PEGIDA’s target market are ethnic Germans. In the UK, ethnic British. And in Ireland, ethnic Irish. That the group, which has always been loosely organised, has made it as far as this small island is impressive, only for the level of conviction demonstrated by those bringing it here.

Those of you who have worked in a public facing role such as in a shop or in customer service will no doubt have had the pleasure of dealing with a consumer who is utterly in the wrong. Whether blissfully, or more likely willfully ignorant, they stay comfortably in their seat on board the train of thought that they’re unaware will shortly be careering off a cliff.

Recently, I gave one of these passengers a crash course in why they were wrong, explaining politely that no, they could not have any red sauvignon blanc because such a thing doesn’t exist. After assuring me that my five years’ experience was trumped by their own knowledge of the wine industry, I pulled out my ace and explained that sauvignon comes from the French word for wild and blanc is the French word for white and that perhaps they were thinking of cabernet sauvignon.

The effort was wasted, as they didn’t budge from their seat. The seat, on board that afformentioned train of thought, quickly careered off the afformentioned cliff as the customer was informed by the shop manager that there is in-fact no such thing as red sauvignon blanc.

I hear you’re a racist now, Father

In a similar manner, many supporters of PEGIDA are wrong. Though they may not be aware of this. The organisation has come under fire repeatedly for its links to the far right and neo-Nazism, something which supporters explain overtly as being due to shared concerns about the coming of migrants and refugees to Europe from the Middle East.

Ireland is somewhat unique in that it is so remote and so insignificant that it need not maintain an offensive, or arguably defensive, military. We have never been, and never will be a significant global power. Where some 1.1 million arrived in Germany in 2015, we received between ten and 30. Ireland is not on the map as far as the kinds of people arriving in Germany are concerned.

You and I are fortunate in that we are in the business of learning. At a university such as UCD, we are very likely to come across opinions that are in opposition to our own. This makes it easy to challenge preconceptions and open up to new ideas. This isn’t always simple because when we invest ourselves in an idea, it can become very difficult to part ways with it.

This is something that’s now easier than ever with the rise of identity politics and closed online communities. Despite our best efforts, we can sometimes become trapped in the echo-chamber.

This can be dangerous when the ideas are rooted in hatred. Ireland is a broken country, as are many of our European neighbours. But as of yet we have not seen any particular swing towards the far right. The announcement of PEGIDA’s launch however, indicates that the seeds for such a shift exist and should be taken seriously.

Numbers are small and unlikely to reach anywhere near the critical mass needed to recruit, as Ireland does not have a far right tradition as many countries on the continent do. But the movement remaining small may only serve to reinforce members’ ideas and amplify what’s already trapped in the echo chamber.

So, on Saturday, consider heading into town to meet these people. Stand across from them in solidarity against the hatred in their ideals, shout at them, call them fucking racists if you feel the need to.

But don’t give them your hatred. They don’t know any better. They have their ideas and they’re spiteful and they’re bitter and they’re rooted in hatred, but that’s not worth getting angry over. It’s just sad.

Give them your pity instead.

  • Seán O’Reilly, Editor