Limerick stands firm against far-right demonstrators

Scenes from last Thursday's demonstration when Limerick activists turned out against far-right campaigners.

A GROUP campaigning against LGBTQ+ books were given short shrift in Limerick last week as local activists came out in numbers to oppose the far-right agitators.

The attempt by anti-LGBTQ protesters to enter Limerick City Library to demonstrate against the availability of Juno Dawson’s young adult non-fiction book, This Book is Gay, was met with a stiff response from local activists.

Trade unionists, socialists, and anti-racist activists united in the Treaty City to block the group’s entry and send a strong message in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

Andy Heasman and Ross Lahive, two of the group’s organisers who have come to prominence for their protests at Cork City Library, were launching what they called a ‘Sovereign Voyage.

Their protest Leeside previously forced the closure of Cork City Library in recent weeks.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

The group planned to launch a boat from Limerick and travel up the River Shannon, invading bookshops and libraries along the way, and demanding that they remove Dawson’s book from shelves.

The book was removed from Children’s Books Ireland’s ‘Pride Reading Guide’ earlier this year on the grounds that some of the book’s language did not reflect the current language used by the LGBTQ+ community.

Their first stop on the ‘sovereign voyage’ was in Limerick, where the far-right group was met by a co-ordinated response by a network of local activists who succeeded in blocking their entry to the library by forming a barrier and linking arms at the entrance.

It is understood that the far-right group were also refused service in a public house in the city centre during their visit.

“This is an important marker for communities across the island. Far-right hate groups have grown emboldened in recent weeks as the Gardaí and State facilitate their harassment of workers and the queer community.

“Here today, working-class Limerick showed the way by standing up for its public library, our library workers, and the users of the library,” said Peter Brady, spokesperson for the Socialist Party.

“It should be obvious to everyone now that the Gardaí are not going to intervene to defend workers. Workers have to get organised ourselves, and stand in solidarity with one another and the most vulnerable in our community. That’s what happened today and the far-right ran away.”

Taking to Twitter in the wake of the group’s Limerick visit, Ross Lahive claimed: “We went in to get a cup of tea and as soon as we walked in the door, we were told we weren’t welcome. We were told, ‘not today lads’. It is pure discrimination.”

“We walked up to the library and they were all waiting for us there. They were all linking arms and the Gardaí were there to facilitate.”

The Limerick Post tried to put questions to Mr Lahive and his group, who are travelling up the River Shannon last week, to get further comment about their visit to the city, but there was no response.

Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan said that he was heartened to see such a powerful display from Limerick people, turning out to repel these protestors and prevent them from invading the City Library.

“This is a coordinated targeted campaign of harassment and intimidation designed to stir up hatred against a group of already marginalised, vulnerable people. This is not who we are. Fascists are not welcome in our city,” Cllr Sheehan declared.

“Libraries are public, inclusive spaces and library staff or patrons should not be subjected to this kind of vile intimidation. It is beyond time that an Garda Siochána took a more robust approach with these protests, which are taking place in a coordinated manner and will only continue unless Gardaí take action.”

Meanwhile, John Lannon, CEO of Doras, who work to protect the rights of asylum seekers, hit out at what he described as the lies and misinformation spread by far-right activists on the streets of Limerick last week.

He also took particular issue with their banner, which read: “There Are Only Two Genders – Male and Female.”

“Their attempts to ensure people do not have information in libraries and bookshops is really worrying and we do have questions in relation to their position to the rights of all people — LGBTQI+, migrant, and refugee,” Mr Lannon said.

Gardaí in Limerick who attended last Thursday’s protest in the city said that the small group, who gathered peacefully outside the library dispersed a short time later.

The far-right protesters moved through east Clare during the August Bank Holiday weekend, where they erected their anti-transgender banner across closed libraries in Killaloe and Scariff as part of their ongoing campaign against LGBTQ+ books in public libraries.

They received a similar welcome in towns and villages along the River Shannon as they did in Limerick City.