Far Right Library Protests: Our rights under attack
Christine O’Mahony (Legal Executive, LLB, LLM, MA)
Ireland In the last few months, far right groups have been organising protests to intimidate and harass library staff, for displaying books on sex education and the LGBTQIA+ community, in particular, “This book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, catered for readers 13+. The far right have claimed that “porn” is being displayed in the library, and therefore they have a reason to barge in and educate us that there are only “two genders”. If these far right agitators belonged to any other group, this would be considered “harassment”, “intimidation” and “trespass”, but suddenly in this country, the far right seem to get special privileges, like being escorted into libraries (source: https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/dublin/2023/04/06/protesters-enter-swords-library-to-oppose-lgbtq-books-for-young-people/), by no other than An Garda Síochána, while LGBT+ activists get slammed with public order offenses for exercising their right to protest, as seen in Longford.
After the wonderful work of Dr Lydia Foy, Ireland passed a gender recognition act, this allows Trans and Non-Binary individuals, to identify however they wish. Trans and Non-Binary individuals can also get their new gender and new name legally recognised. Therefore the far right are incorrect, there is the possibility of other genders,and that is legally recognised in Ireland. Library staff are frustrated, especially LGBTQIA+ members of staff. They deserve to go to work, without being intimidated. An Garda Síochana have failed in their responsibility of protecting the peace, by being soft on far right activity. This has led to librarians setting up their own group called the: “Queer Library Alliance”. It is also frustrating that senior members of staff seem to be caving to the far right demands, by not displaying LGBT+ books out in the open anymore. This is almost close to censorship. Many LGBT+ youth have found solace in books, especially when they were still discovering who they are. Books simply provide individuals with that information. Like any book, it is the parents’ responsibility to make sure their children are reading age appropriate books. Mills and Boons were a favourite of my mothers,but she wouldn’t let me read them until I was 18+, due to the sexual nature in some of the stories. In Leitrim,the far right physically attacked activists, some who happen to be women. For a group who claim they are “protecting women and children”, they are doing a terrible job at doing so. Again, the far right are free to move onto the next library to harass, without any repercussions.
The government plan to introduce hate crime legislation which will hopefully deal with incidents like this. But how is hate crime legislation expected to work, if harassers who have the tendency to physically attack are allowed to move from town to town to trespass and intimidate other workers? This legislation is doomed to fail and it has not even been passed yet.
As somebody who works in the criminal field as a legal executive, my firm has clients, who like the far right, intimidate women, harass staff, physically attack people and trespass on property. No matter how minor the crime is, these clients have to go through the courts for months and months, even years. But the far right, are free to sail on their boat, committing crimes but nothing is being done about it?
We should be worried that our right to gender recognition, our right to safety, our right to be free from hate, our right to privacy, our right to free speech,is all under attack. Police reform is seriously needed.
Christine O'Mahony is a LLB, LLM and MA graduate and currently works as a legal Executive with BCM Solicitors. She is also currently studying for the FE1 exams. Outside of work she is an activist with many groups such as Amnesty International, Mullingar 4 All and Midlands Winter Pride.