How do we react when we see injustice? Do we stand by the wayside observing and waiting for the outcome before we pick a side? Even the idea that there is a side to be picked when witnessing obvious injustice is farcical.
Or do we intervene?
Not knowing all the facts means that we enter the fray at a certain risk, be it physical or otherwise. Nonetheless, do we leap in hoping that all the facts — the truth — will become apparent in time but that right now some form of reaction is beholden upon us?
These are not easy questions to answer. It is down to all of us as individuals that make that decision for ourselves.
On the other hand, there are times when an injustice is so overwhelming, so blatant, and the perpetrators so self-satisfied in the protection that is afforded them, that we cannot but intervene.
To do otherwise would be to lend a sheen of approval to the injustice that we are witnessing.
The events in Roscommon over the last two weeks may not have been a turning point, but they are indicative of something that is both hopeful and obversely holds a dangerous potential.
A family, having lost their home to a bank, were to be duly evicted. Instead, what we saw in the video that has gone viral was a base display of injustice and cruelty, no matter how apologists in the media and elsewhere try to dress it up.
Gardaí were present and witnessed a man being assaulted by mercenaries, yet chose to stand by the wayside in order for the group to carry on their assault, evict the family, and occupy the house. Did those involved, the bank, the mercenaries, and the Gardaí really expect that nothing more would come of this?
Perhaps they did. That would explain the shock in the media and online when the evictors were themselves evicted last Sunday morning by a large group of — some reports said as many as 70 — people. Personally, I was not shocked and I’m sure neither were many others; merely surprised.
A feeling of shock would be justified on the premise that we did not see something like this coming or that it was unpredictable. Quite frankly then, it was not shocking.
It was surprising, however, in that a reaction or countermove of the kind and scale that took place on the morning of Sunday, December 16 occurred.
This makes the events that took place both hopeful and dangerous. What those inspired by the actions of that Sunday do next will determine the atmosphere in which further steps are taken.
That Sunday morning was a direct confrontation with the forces of rampant capitalism and its foot soldiers.
This has to be dismissed out of hand though as the actions of dissidents or jilted security guards. The idea that people may not be pleased to see their neighbours brutalised whilst being evicted from their family home is a force to be reckoned with.
Add in the general contempt that the government seems to hold the general population in and you have a formula for direct action aimed at both the individuals representing, and symbols of, power.
If the next steps are to involve the denigration of those not appropriately Irish alongside the use of direct action as a panacea for the iniquities of the government and elites, then the Far Right will pose a far bigger threat than they currently do. And this is their goal; the co-opting of the anger and discontent that people feel and channelling it into a cause in which injustice is fought with inhumanity.
The host argued that if the smaller parties of the Far Right, such as Irexit, Renua, and others, “could come together, coalesce together, and get one personality”, which would then offer “something tangible that the people can get behind”, then that would present “an opportunity”.
Mr Gilroy agreed, and related that “one of the top-ranking Gardaí said to me… ‘We’re with you. We just can’t come out publicly and be with you.’”
Mr Gilroy is perhaps exaggerating but a level of discontent does exist within the Gardaí. And like the general public, it is rife for exploitation at the hands of insidious forces.
In the last week, Mr Gilroy has also appeared as a public representative of Yellow Vest Ireland. Last weekend he made a speech during their first protest in Dublin and made yet another just this weekend. In the interview mentioned, he states that he “was asked to promote the Yellow Vest movement”.
Given his association with this version of the Yellow Vests, and his own political background and associates, there is clearly an attempt underway to co-opt the image of the French Gilet Jaunes for ends other than those of justice.
This has not gone unnoticed. The family at the centre of the eviction in Roscommon issued a statement, part of which was clearly referencing the Ben Gilroy version of the Yellow Vests. They asked that any protest not be “‘hijacked’ by any organisation with ulterior motives.”
Furthermore, “they wish to distance themselves from any reference to imitations of the ‘yellow-vest’ or alt-right movements.”
Contempt from the elite directed at the supposedly lessers in society always engenders the creation of political movements dedicated to change. But as mentioned there is the potential for reactionary elements to latch on to this, hence the danger in the early stages of a fomenting discontent.
From here they use the very real pain of the public to attain power by promising them cure-alls. Once they have solidified their power they then proceed to eliminate groups they perceive as corrupted or corrupting.
This duality is inherent in the early stages of any revolutionary moment. Given that social change was never achieved by a softly-softly approach — that it arrives due to disobedience, tumult, and sometimes revolution — it always holds the possibility of corruption or destruction from within and without.
As things currently stand, it appears that the Far Right variant of the Yellow Vests are making headway. And as more evictions are coming, if the Left continues to flounder on the sidelines then the future of Irish political protest seems bleak.
What does signal hopefulness is that there is some awareness of the tactics of the Far Right. One can also be hopeful in that the initial moves on the part of the people in Roscommon were done independently of any nefarious influence coming from purveyors of Far Right talking points.
A movement that directly tackles injustice, takes on the government and its shock troops whilst retaining a core ethos of equality and inclusion is the only widespread movement that must be allowed to come to fruition.
The alternative is a movement with an ever-increasing circumference of enemies to be dealt with inhumanely while claiming to represent the “real Irish”. So this is the question that lays in front of us: Do we want a movement that represents everyone or a movement that deals in nativist absolutes?
How we answer that question will determine the political landscape for a long time to come.