Thursday 22 August 2019

'I'm disgusted, but what an we do?' - parents horrified over picture of Irish schoolchildren on white supremacist website

stock photo
stock photo

Aoife Moore

A picture of Irish schoolchildren has been posted on a leading white supremacist website.

The picture, taken almost two years ago in Co Longford, shows a class of around 40 children of different ethnicities, gathered in their uniforms outside their school.

It was posted to social media sites without the parents' or school's permission, with captions criticising the "changing face of rural Ireland".

It was subsequently tweeted by a conservative vlogger to their 46,000 followers with the caption: "This is an elementary school in Ireland. Within a decade I guarantee the Gaelic language and culture will cease to exist."

The picture was later posted to one of the oldest and largest neo-Nazi sites, Stormfront - which boasts "white pride worldwide" - and a number of users have commented, alleging white people in Ireland are "literally being replaced" and calling immigration an "invasion".

The website hosts numerous chat forums and threads on subjects such as "Cowardly Jew infiltration" and "Two 1920 Klan songs available for listening".

Stormfront was taken off the internet in 2017, but has since reappeared. It has operated since 1995 under Don Black, a former Ku Klux Klan leader.

One mother whose son is in the photo says she is disgusted and hurt knowing her child's image has been used on a white pride platform.

"I don't even know where to start, it's disgusting," she said.

"There are six, seven, eight, nine-year-old children in that picture, now it's all over the world on some websites that are completely at odds with what the school represents.

"It makes me feel very sad about the time we live in, where the internet and social media can be used like this."

The woman, originally from Poland, said parents signed a consent form for the school to take the picture after it won an award and it was printed in a local paper. It was then taken without permission.

"I'm just disgusted, I can't even comprehend this whole thing. We were notified by Facebook yesterday that they had taken down the post on their platform, but by this stage the post has been shared and copied by hundreds of people, and now we've found out it's on a fascist website," she said.

"We had a discussion today, a talk among parents, about what we can do, but what can we do? It can happen in every other school to every other child, people using other people's property.

"This has woken me up to a completely different reality. I've received huge amounts of support since this happened, 98% of messages have all been positive.

"What upsets me is that I've never had this before, this is my home now, my island, my Ireland.

"I'm not naive, there are people that don't like other people - I'm sure even in my local town some think I don't belong here - but in Ireland it's not OK to even say that out loud.

"I've never had anything like this until it happened in my home."

St John the Evangelist National School in Dublin has also been targeted in the last week, with an image of a diverse classroom taken from a website and posted by right-wing accounts.

A school statement said: "We are extremely disappointed that this image has been used in such a manner.

"We pride ourselves on being a diverse, tolerant and inclusive school. We welcome children of all backgrounds, colour and beliefs.

"We have created a school community that reflects a modern, progressive society where all members of our community are valued. We have been enriched, as an Irish school, by welcoming families from around the globe."

The Department of Education, the Department of Communications and the Digital Safety Commissioner have all been approached for comment.

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