Mixed race couple leave Ireland after onslaught of racial abuse

Ryan Carrick

A mixed-race couple who received racial abuse online have left Ireland after a threat on their lives.

Fiona Ryan (33) and fiancée Jonathan Mathis (32) travelled to Britain with their 22-month old son on September 29 in response to racist comments and a death threat following their participation in an advertising campaign for Lidl.

Fiona, from Co Meath, Jonathan, who was born in Brazil and grew up in the UK, and their son Jonah were featured in a TV and billboard ad campaign for the supermarket chain earlier this year.

On September 7th of this year, a former journalist notorious for perpetuating far-right conspiracy theories such as the ‘Great Replacement’, saw the couple on a billboard advertising the supermarket chain Lidl and posted a since-deleted tweet to her 32,000 followers which said:

“German dump @lidl_ireland gaslighting the Irish people with their multicultural version of ‘The Ryans’. Kidding no-one! Resist the Great Replacement wherever you can by giving this kip a wide berth. #ShopIrish #BuyIrish”.

The couple reported the matter to the gardaí but were told there was nothing that could be done and that the case was a “civil matter”. However, after advice from the European Network Against Racism Ireland (Enar), they filed a report and had a meeting with an investigating officer.

The couple intended to use the situation to highlight the fact that hate-speech legislation is needed in Ireland. They appeared on the Late Late Show “to make a call to action to the Irish people to act and to sign Enar’s petition and support the amazing work they do.”

Speaking at the launch by An Garda Síochána of a new diversity strategy aimed at tackling rising incidences of hate crime across the State, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said gardaí were “in the process of identifying individuals” who had subjected the couple to abuse.

The three-year programme involves enhanced reporting, recording, investigating and prosecuting mechanisms being put in place to deal with hate crime.

Minister of State for Justice and Equality, David Stanton, said the government was “committed to ensuring that Ireland is a safe and secure place for all”.

“Actions such as this go to the heart of what is needed,” he said. “Concrete steps to ensure that all groups and communities in an increasingly diverse society have the confidence that they are respected, valued and safe.”

Stanton also announced that a new anti-racism committee would be established in the near future.

Author: Ryan Carrick

Image credit: Sonja Tutty