In September I presented a post about Councillor Brian Murphy who represents the rise of the Alt-Right in Ireland and a growing voice within the Fine Gael party.
I wrote to Fine Gael to inquire when he would face disciplinary action for making Islamophobic comments as indicated by the Taoiseach, the party refused to answer my questions.
Members of the party wrote back to me promising answers but they were never forthcoming with dates, actions, or opinions on the matter. The party also failed to disclose what their social media policy is while on the same hand they have defended a new communications unit with a budget of €5,000,000 which in all likelihood will have no transparency.
Since then Fine Gael have very quietly suspended Brian Murphy from the party for a period of 12 months. I’d imagine that the hope is that he leaves by his own accord now. During this 12 month period, beginning 31st October 2017, Brian Murphy is not allowed represent Fine Gael at council level, at any of its committees, cannot describe himself as a Fine Gael councillor or make use of the Fine Gael logo/brand or any of its material.
In a way this throws down the gauntlet to Brian Murphy, how he reacts now will shape his own destiny, but it does very little to shape Fine Gael’s reputation or attitude towards racism, islamophobia, and corruption in this country.
Fine Gael have failed to condemn the attitudes of the alt right publicly, this cloaked disciplinary move which keeps the councillor in the party geography for the next election is a complete cop out, it shows a lack of back bone and party principle.
Fine Gael have also failed to comment on their social media policy and large elements of the party still follow the councillor on social media, the ambiguity of which means they lend him their support and legitimise his opinions, even though he has been outcast for being a complete bigot. Fine Gael fail to see the significance of legitimising a candidate by association of party and/or party members.
Now I will state it would be ludicrous to suggest that a party representative is restricted on who they follow on social media, following people of opposing views helps form well rounded opinion, but accounts which are key representatives of the party need to take social responsibility to distance themselves from elements that have been found to be harmful to the party, harmful to the country, and potentially harmful to democracy. For instance I’d be quite alarmed if the Taoiseach was following elements of the KKK and I’d question if that was representative of the electorate.
The lack of a social media policy is in the shadow of the lack of social media legislation. To ensure we have fair elections we have an act which outlines what each candidate is permitted to spend in campaigning, for the record the most a candidate can spend is €45,200 in promoting themselves.
The act is called the Electoral Act and it was passed in 1997, some 20 years ago and a decade before the advent of social media.
Our legislation to deal with how individual candidates promote themselves on social media (pre-election) and how representatives advertise themselves and promote their messages once elected is completely out of date. The legislation simply could not have envisaged this type of media because it’s unparallel to anything that existed in the 90’s. The government has failed to legislate further on the issue or produce an internal party document to provide guidance to how party members should conduct themselves on social media.
Brian Murphy has also gone quietly which is the biggest shame, he has shown a lack of courage on all fronts, if he showed some resistance to his suspension then we could have highlighted some serious issues with social media politics. Instead we have an unregulated area with no party policies in place to govern use of a very prominent format in election campaigns and distribution of information (and misinformation).
It is also unclear whether Brian Murphy is still a Garth Brooks fan or not or how his music tastes will play on his future, maybe he'll learn to live again or rely on friends in low places, but for now he's standing outside the fire.