home News The rise of the far-right and anti-mask believers undermine public health message as university life resumes

The rise of the far-right and anti-mask believers undermine public health message as university life resumes

A UCC Lecturer and terrorism expert, Natasha Dromey, has stated that the Government needs to respond “rapidly” to right-wing style violence or else there is a “significant risk” of seeing that type of behaviour becoming “normalised.” Dr Dromey was commenting to the Irish Examiner about a violent disruption outside the Dáil recently when a group clashed with counter-protestors. Gardaí are investigating the assault of vocal LGBT rights and Repeal activist Izzy Kamikaze, who received a head injury.

Dr Dromey, speaking at a security conference said that the “use of dehumanising language coupled with the promotion of narratives based on fear are central to far-right extremism”. She said there is a general upsurge globally and that “a right-wing style extremist approach surrounding political protest” is becoming – possibly – an almost daily occurrence.

In Cork City centre recently, there were also a group of protestors with a variety of banners and signs protesting on a myriad of issues, ranging from anti-vaccines to 5G and mobile phones; but most notably, rejecting the wearing of face coverings intended to protect against COVID-19. A variety of speakers on the day, addressed the crowd present regarding extreme conspiracy theories about Covid-19. These protestors called for an end of “government tyranny” of face coverings and lockdown measures.

Simultaneous to the march, a counter-protest took place in the city centre involving healthcare staff and supporters. They advocated adherence to the government’s public health message: encouraging the importance of social distancing, wearing masks correctly and other nationwide safety protocols in the fight against Covid-19.

A University College Dublin (UCD) academic spoke at an anti-mask rally in central London at the weekend and told thousands that the coronavirus vaccine will “make people sick”. Professor Dolores Cahill, a former professor of translational medicine at UCD spoke after Kate Shemirani, a former nurse and the organiser of the event, warned the large crowd against taking a COVID vaccine because “they will be able to look at every aspect of what’s going on in our brains”.

Professor Cahill has been a prominent figure at anti-lockdown protests in Dublin and is the chairperson of a Eurosceptic political group called the Irish Freedom Party. University College Dublin has previously disassociated itself from Prof Cahill’s views on Covid-19.

Professor Cahill spoke with radio presenter, Neil Prendeville, on his Cork’s Red FM show, where she claimed that Covid-19 can be cured with Vitamin C and hydroxychloroquine. This interview garnered considerable attention on social media and Cahill was criticised for her anti-public health rhetoric.

According to the Covid-19 Information and Updates section of the UCC website, wearing a mask is required on campus, where a social distance of two metres cannot be maintained. This includes all academic and extra-curricular activity. It is also mandatory to wear a face covering when visiting Boole Library. There has not been any noted protest from the UCC community regarding the public health guidelines, released by the Department of Higher Education to facilitate a return to third level activity.

However, when Dr Dromey was asked if right-wing groups latch on to wider causes, for instance the anti-mask movement, she said: “These groups are masters at playing into the fears of the people, so any issue that seems to be controversial or a possible threat to the norm is capitalised by groups like this.”

All guidelines and queries relating to the return to campus, pursuant to public health advice, can be found at https://www.ucc.ie/en/emt/covid19/