United Against Racism unequivocally condemns the murder of the 24-year-old Japanese man in Dundalk on Wednesday. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends.
The fact that an 18-year-old Egyptian teenager has been charged with the murder and the stabbing of two others was pounced upon by many racists on social media in an effort to stir up anti-immigrant hatred and fear. This has been fuelled by a number of media outlets whose first reaction to the news was to speculate about whether or not this might have been an act of terrorism.
We must acknowledge firstly that the ‘terrorism’ label is a political one and that its application is used by the powerful to further their own agendas. The bombing of civilians in the Middle East by the United States, Russia and others is not considered to be terrorism, but knife and van attacks by disturbed individuals are as long as the perpetrators are not white. In Europe, it is the United States and its allies who have a monopoly on who gets labelled a terrorist. For this reason, it is best for those of us who wish to oppose imperialist wars and racism to reject this term.
However, despite the lack of any evidence that these crimes were politically motivated, this was the line of many media outlets including The Irish Times, The Irish Independent and the Journal, all of whom invoked the idea of a ‘potential’ terrorist attack, or that this was a ‘line of inquiry’ in their headlines. Carrying these headlines was irresponsible at best, and malicious at worst. This provoked a surge of racism on social media from bigots who used the story as an opportunity to promote their own xenophobic agendas. The contrast between the coverage of this murder and the murder of a Polish immigrant who was stabbed to death in Cavan this week is telling.
It has not merely been far right bigots who have used this murder to promote an anti-immigrant agenda, but senior politicians as well. Fianna Fáil Justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan spoke of the challenges of protecting the State against “random acts of violence”. We must question why this murder is being viewed as an act of violence against the State, while nothing of the sort is said about the murder in Cavan. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also dealt with this horrible attack as if it were an immigration issue, saying that, “they are still trying to find out all the details of how this person became present in Ireland and what interaction he had with the immigration services. It certainly isn’t the case that someone who applies for asylum in Ireland is automatically detained but we do need to find out what happened and what might be done better”.
Turning this crime into an immigration issue will play into the hands of the racists and leave other migrants and people of colour open to physical and verbal attack. There is no reason that people who are not Irish and who commit crimes in Ireland should be treated any differently to Irish citizens. This man ought to be put on trial here and serve his sentence here if he is convicted, just as any Irish citizen would. Moreover, when we speak of these ‘random acts of violence’ we should be aware that the overwhelming majority of violence is inflicted by powerful states that serve the interests of the wealthy, and that there is nothing random about it. In the Middle East, the majority of the violence is inflicted by the bombs of imperialist powers. Here in Ireland, the violence is inflicted by a state that allows homeless people to die on the streets, that drives asylum seekers to desperation and sometimes suicide in the Direct Provision system, and that attempts to pit homeless Irish people against asylum seekers while tens of thousands of houses remain empty all over the country. This violence is not random, but systematic, and serves the interests of the wealthy to the cost of everybody else.
United Against Racism condemns the racist poison that has surged in the wake of this incident. We will continue to fight for the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and the homeless in this country. We will also continue to fight any efforts to divide ordinary people or to use their suffering against one another. Join us to fight for equality for all.
Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin on behalf of United Against Racism