March 30, 2023 | The Journal

Far right attempts to exploit rumor in Irish town and cause a “moral panic” against migrants

The Journal visited the Irish town of Dungarvan to examine the impact a false claim of sexual assault has on a local community after being seemingly weaponised by far-right groups. This comes at a time when anti-immigration protests are taking a toll on the country. ISD Senior Analyst Aoife Gallagher spoke to the online newspaper about the wider tactics of Irish anti-immigration activists, including their focus on spreading unverified and often false stories about crimes committed by migrants.

“It follows a pattern that you see quite regularly with any kind of misinformation that circulates online. So [this instance] started with Facebook posts that make an allegation from a person with very little evidence to back it up,” Aoife said.

The original, unfounded post on Facebook was then “shared across Telegram groups associated with anti-immigrant activities and the far-right across Ireland.”

“And from there, it gets picked up by so-called citizen journalists and the alternative media who seized on the story very, very quickly in order to push a narrative that has been front and centre of the entire anti-refugee and asylum seeker mobilisation over the past few months, which is essentially to try to create a moral panic over the idea that migrants pose an inherent threat to people – more than anything an inherent threat to women and children.”

Local authorities released a statement confirming a woman was arrested and accused of making a false report, which only fuelled the narrative of a “cover-up”, ‘which she outlined goes into “a primary narrative that something else is going on – a general conspiratorial mindset,” especially when there is a lack of trust toward media institutions.

In the case of Dungarvan, The Journal reports that local residents may have believed it at first, but then realised the rumor was being amplified by a minority in the far-right and being used to advance other agendas.