THE rise of the far right has not escaped Carlow, with the county reporting one of the highest rates for online searches of far-right and white supremacist material in Ireland, according to new research.
Carlow was in the top-three counties that had the highest search rates for material that included propaganda, extremist music, attempts to join or contact extremist groups and common extremist conspiracy theories.
Between September 2020 and February 2021, counter extremist group Moonshot tracked white nationalist and far-right extremist search traffic in Ireland.
What they found was that Dublin had the highest rates of all others counties combined, but it was followed by Carlow and Longford on the basis of population. They found more than 9,000 individual searches from Irish users for far-right topics during the six-month period.
The study said: ‘Although smaller in number than their US or UK counterparts, this analysis reveals that the Irish far-right extremist audience is actively searching for highly niche extremist material, which may be the result of a small-but-dedicated far-right scene in Ireland.’
Lorcan Thompson, who organised last year’s Black Lives Matter rally in Carlow, described the findings as “frightening”.
Mr Thompson, whose mother is from Ireland and his father from Congo, spoke of his own experience of racism after organising June’s protest, which was attended by hundreds in Carlow town.
“There were people setting up fake Facebook pages posting false allegations and saying ‘me and my friends will be coming with our white hoods’ … started posting Ku Klux Klan pictures, calling us black bastards and monkeys.”
Many of these people were from Carlow town. One person alleged that Mr Thompson and his black friends were drug dealers.
Mr Thompson blocked this person on Facebook, but every time he did so, the individual had another profile ready to jump-start the abuse again.
Mr Thompson believes racism has not increased in recent years, but people are more brazen about it and would openly post racist comments online. The internet has become the Wild West.
“There is a view that it’s the internet, nothing will happen to you … everybody can post anything,” said Mr Thompson, who believes that websites like Facebook need to act quicker to clamp down on racist comments.
The 21-year-old said he does not dwell on the abuse that he receives and believes that responding to racist remarks online could be counter productive.
“The more you give light to darkness, it’s just going to stay,” he said. “When you learn to block it out, that it’s no fault of your own and that they are pig-headed, ignorant, you can sit back and enjoy your life.”