President Higgins condemns "censorship" attempts by far-right groups targeting libraries

President Michael D Higgins, who recently spoke about libraries targeted by far-right groups, speaking at an event with a microphone in front of him.
President Michael D Higgins, who recently spoke about libraries targeted by far-right groups, speaking at an event with a microphone in front of him. Via X - @Ceasefire_Track

In a recent speech, Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins condemned far-right groups who, in recent years, have targeted libraries across the country demanding the removal of certain titles, including LGBTQ+ books.

The President was speaking at the Bloomsday Garden Party at Áras an Uachtaráin, an event organised on Sunday, June 16, to celebrate the 1922 novel Ulysses by James Joyce. On the occasion, President Higgins addressed the crowd, saying that those who intimidate library staff and destroy books “hide behind the mask of ‘protester’, but must be called out for what they are: vigilantes attempting to censor, some of whom are committing criminal offences”.

He continued saying that it was unacceptable to see libraries forced to close, however briefly, because they had become the target of people who objected to the presence of particular titles in their catalogues and wished to destroy them.

The President was referring to multiple instances that took place over the last few years, where far-right groups attempted to enter libraries and bookstores across the country and have LGBTQ+ books removed. Workers at the targeted locations have been subjected to intimidation, harassment and verbal abuse, while the protesters filmed them without their consent.

In one instance last year, the Cork City library had to close for one day to protect library staff and patrons after a small group of far-right nationalists blocked the entrance with a banner.


“The destruction of books must always be called out as an outrageous act,” said President Higgins. “So many of our great writers, including Joyce, endured the consequences of such activities of censorship and book burning. There can be no place in our modern society for such immoral acts of vandalism.

“Libraries must remain places for the quiet engagement of the soul, for a peaceful contemplating of any neglected curiosity, of intellectual awakening. We must do all we can to ensure that libraries continue to be so, for they are, to use Socrates’ metaphor, the ‘delivery room for the birth of ideas’.

“A world without libraries would be a dystopian one, indeed it would be a very frightening prospect. Today as we recall Joyce in all his complex, everlasting brilliance, by committing to ensure that our public libraries remain, are developed, extended and protected, continue to be the special places of learning and sated curiosity that they must always be, we honour Joyce’s legacy.

“Protecting libraries and library staff from intimidation from protests by far-right groups, and ensuring that they do not fall foul to a reactionary and ignorant censorship, but rather remain stocked with the widest range of literature reflecting the diversity of our contemporary society in all its richness, is not just a matter for the gardaí, but for all of us,” President Higgins said.


Earlier this month, the President also shared a message on social media, extending his “warmest regards” to the LGBTQ+ community and allies as Pride 2024 began. “Pride is not just a celebration,” the statement read. “It is a powerful symbol of solidarity, collectivity, identity and resilience, offering as it does an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to come together, recognising that our differences enrich us rather than diminish us, unite us rather than divide us.”

The message continued: “Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, may I express my sincere gratitude to all those who have tirelessly fought, and continue to fight, for LGBTQ+ rights, whose dedication to creating a society where everyone can live authentically and without fear of judgment or discrimination has played such a crucial role in the pursuit of a more fulfilling, harmonious, just, and inclusive society.

“May I wish all those marking Pride 2024 the very best as you celebrate and embrace this wonderful festival of equality, diversity, respect, and love.”

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