Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle warns of growing far-right extremism, disinformation

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said Europol reports show that right-wing extremism was growing in Ireland.

Deputy Pringle said: “Last June, Europol’s EU Terrorism Situation and Trend report showed that right-wing extremism was ‘growing’ in Ireland. The report showed that in 2019 there was an increase in violent right-wing activities.”

Europol also reported a “strong international network involving right-wing extremists from Ireland, other European countries and the USA”, he said.

Deputy Pringle said: “I would think that it is fair to say that since the emergence of Covid-19 globally that the far right have gained stronger footholds in communities. They are preying on people’s fears, the anti-Government, anti-lockdown, anti-mask sentiment and trying to build their movements. So much of this recruitment and grooming is happening online.

“Europol and all other relevant agencies, civil society groups and others are going to have to step up their game to combat the spread of disinformation, lies and dangerous scapegoating.” He commended the Far Right Observatory and similar groups who have been working to gather information on the tactics, personalities and plans of the far right in Ireland.

“And I wonder what our State has in mind for doing this as well, because it’s vitally important,” he said.

Deputy Pringle was addressing the Dáil yesterday on a motion for regulations related to Europol, its cooperation with other parties, its data processing as part of criminal investigations and its role in innovation and research.

Europol states that it supports the 27 EU member states in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime and other serious and organised forms of crime, and the deputy said there have been examples of agencies working well together to go after serious criminals. But at the same time, he said the regulations and directives “are so technical, convoluted and designed to ostracize citizens around Europe.”

Deputy Pringle asked: “How inaccessible are the Parliament and Council and the business they conduct?  There must be a better way.”

The Commission plans to strengthen Europol’s mandate, Deputy Pringle said.

He said: “We are told that the legislation ‘takes full account of the relevant EU data protection legislation’. I’ve noticed that this is a one-sentence-fits-all statement but as we heard in the Justice Committee earlier this week, there are questions around the application and enforcement of data protection legislation in Ireland, so I would imagine that it is similar in other member states.”