Two months after George Nkencho was murdered in front of his house, Memet Uludağ argues that the campaign for justice must continue and grow.
It is now more than two months since George Nkencho was shot and killed in front of his house by armed Gardaí on 30 December 2020.
George’s death gave rise to serious questions and concerns about racism, class, inequality, and discrimination. The indignation felt by the Black-African community is further deepened by the mental health illness of George Nkencho and the anguish and trauma his family are now experiencing.
There has been a strong campaign for justice for George and his family. The Nkencho family have called for a public investigation into his death. They have raised concerns about the Garda Ombudsman (GSOC) investigation, which continues without much sense of progress.
George Nkencho was one of our own.
The first thing we all need to say, especially if we are ordinary working class people who live in the Dublin15/Blanchardstown area, is that George Nkencho was one of our own. This is not a matter of black or white, skin colour or place of birth. You can be white as snow or with Irish ancestry going back to Brian Boru and still be an ultra-wealthy, ruthless exploiter of Irish people, or a corrupt billionaire tax exile, a specialist in brown envelopes, robbing the state and the people on a daily basis.
George was one of us because he was an ordinary lad, like so many others, doing his best to cope and live his life in very difficult circumstances, in an area that suffers disproportionately from poverty and deprivation. Whatever happened in the local shop on the day of his killing does not change this. Whatever the details, they do not warrant his killing. He had left the area of the incident and was on his way home. He was shot on his own doorstep in front of his family. How many young men and women in our communities have got into scraps, conflicts, or trouble with the Gardaí at some point? They don’t deserve to get shot five times for it. In this case, de-escalation of the situation should have been the action of the Gardaí.
Justice and Solidarity
That’s why all of us should be standing with George’s grieving family and friends and demand Justice for George. Justice doesn’t mean revenge. It means finding out the truth and that means an independent public inquiry, not one wing of the Gardaí investigating another wing. It means those who killed George should be held to account. This is a basic democratic right.
That is why we call for justice and solidarity, and we should all call for it together.
In 2000, John Carty, a 27-year-old with a long history of psychiatric illness was shot dead by the Emergency Response Unit of the Gardaí. His sister called for a full independent public inquiry. Subsequently, a number of inquiries took place and the Irish state admitted that serious mistakes were made in the Garda operation.
The family of George Nkencho also deserve a full independent public inquiry.
Stand up to Racism
Racism is a poison that divides our communities. It must be denounced and actively mobilised against. This is vital. Racism must not be allowed to become normalised or acceptable; we must reject it in all its forms and continue to build strong unity in our communities. We must also reject the scapegoating of migrants, minorities, and refugees for economic and social issues in our society today. Migrants, minorities, people of colour are not part of the problem but the solution for a better Ireland for all.
Politicians and public representatives that use racism for electoral gains are also responsible for the spread of racism. Politicians routinely scapegoat people of colour, Travellers, asylum seekers and migrants, while imposing cuts on housing, health, and many other public services. Others remain silent when they hear these racist arguments. It is not good enough for politicians to sit on the fence on racism.
One of the most sinister forms of racism is the institutional racism people experience in various ways. Institutional racism cannot be boxed off as a ‘mistake’ by a few bad apples or a matter of training or ‘lack of resources’. Institutions of the state that have racists or biased practises can have life-altering negative impacts on people. Institutional racism must be recognised and stamped out.
Far-Right Lies and Hate
The killing of George Nkencho has created a wave of lies and hate messages on social media coordinated by Ireland’s Trump-supporting far right. While not everyone sharing these lies were far right, a real undercurrent of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment has made people fall for these lies about George and his family.
The long-running #JusticeForGeorgeNkencho campaign centred in Blanchardstown and supported by others across the country managed to set the record straight and build a network of solidarity, but the job to resist the far right is not over yet.
We need to put public pressure on the Irish Government to launch an independent public inquiry. At the moment the only hope to achieve this is continued campaigning backed by people power.
There are 3 senior Government TD’s in Dublin West where the Nkencho family lives. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar (FG), Roderic O’Gorman (GP), Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and Jack Chamber (FF), Minister of State at the Department of Defence and Government Chief Whip. The pressure must also be on them to act in the interest of justice for someone in their constituency.
Black Lives Matter, not just in the U.S, but also in Dublin 15.
Memet Uludağ is the National Organiser of United Against Racism.