Jan 1, 5.30 pm.
The killing of George Nkencho by armed gardai on Wednesday 30 December in Blanchardstown has, inevitably, generated a lot of debate, some of it very angry, on social media. This is my response.
After offering our condolences to all the family who have lost a loved one and our sympathy to the shop worker who was injured in this tragic series of events, there are certain questions that need to be asked.
Why was it necessary for the gardai to shoot and kill George Nkencho? There were at least 12 trained gardai on the scene. Why could they not disarm and detain him, as they have done with numerous other suspects – men with swords, members of the Kinnehan and Hutch gangs and so on – without shooting him? Second, if shooting was essential, and we do not accept that it was, why was he not shot in the legs to bring him down? Why was he shot at least 3 times (apparently 5 shots were fired)? George Nkencho was evidently mentally disturbed so why was no psychiatric social worker brought to the scene to de-escalate the situation? All these questions need to be asked and seriously investigated.
One point that needs to be clarified straight away is that raising these questions is not ‘supporting’ George Nkencho or his wielding a knife or attacking a shop worker. Widely differing claims are being made about George , such as that he had 32 criminal convictions but these are not reported in the media and are contradicted by friends and neighbours, plus while there was an altercation in the EuroSpar shop and the shop worker was injured he was NOT slashed in the face. But these are not the issue. Whatever George Nkencho may have done or not done in the past does not justify his killing.
Was race or rather racism a factor? Some people on social media are confidently asserting that racism has nothing to do with it. What makes them so sure? Institutional racism does not openly declare itself but it shows up in different practice and different responses and this killing is an example of such a different response and that too needs to be investigated. We know from a huge amount of experience, not just in the US but in Britain, France and round the world that racist attitudes can be embedded in police forces as in the wider society. Why should it be different in Ireland given, for example, the record of anti-Traveller racism in the gardai. Reports from the local Black Community suggest they do have experience of racist attitudes from the police and have been subject to racism in school.
Lastly, regardless of whatever racism there may have been from the gardai, there is no disputing the blatant racism in some of the social media commentary. The far right, anti-migrant Irish Freedom Party, posted video footage of the protest march through Blanchardstown on Thursday and called it ‘unacceptable’. The match was peaceful protest. For the Irish Freedom Party, who themselves have held rallies and marches against mask wearing and the Covid restrictions, what was unacceptable was that these were Black people marching and they called for them to be deported. To the Irish so-called Freedom Party I say what I find unacceptable is your racism and the same applies to any comments on social media which suggest it is alright for George Nkencho to be killed because we should ’look after our own’ and such like.
I, and People Before Profit, will always oppose such racism and argue for a united response of all working people to injustice whether it is about housing, access to health and education, women’s rights, workers’ rights such as Debenhams, student nurses, or police brutality.
Jan 3, 12 midday.
What saddens me is the number of decent people that believe the lies. George Nkencho, shot dead by Gardaí in Blanchardstown last week, was a man with mental health issues, but NO CRIMINAL RECORD. The Gardaí themselves have issued a statement saying that lies about him have been circulated by racists and fascists and “unfortunately these lies went viral and lots of right minded people in society think the dead man was a criminal when he was not.” (see the Independent/Sunday World). There was no machete, no hammer, no slashing.
Mental health is a fragile thing; racist bullying for years wouldn’t help. Neither would having your friend (15 year-old schoolboy Toyosi Shittabey) killed in 2010.
And now he’s gone, without the help he needed, without an arrest, without a trial, but shot dead in his own front garden surrounded by 12 gardaí. I don’t intend to respond to the vile and insulting things racists say about or to me, but I do ask ordinary decent people to consider the facts, the REAL facts, and ask yourself ‘what if it was your son, your brother, your friend…?’