In 2012, the French far-right party Bloc Identitaire – later renamed Les Identitaires – established a youth wing under the title of Génération Identitaire (GI) or “Generation Identity”. Though serving as the Bloc’s recruitment arm, its main purpose was to channel the energies of teenage activists into street protests and acts of civil disobedience while winnowing out less committed members. However the popularity of the junior organisation among a growing body of reactionary or countercultural Millennials in France surpassed the most optimistic expectations of its founders, transforming the appendage into a movement in its own right. This led to the establishment of several affiliated groups across Western Europe, notably the Identitäre Bewegung in Germany and the Identitäre Bewegung Österreich in Austria, both of which have strong Neo-Nazi ties, and the Generazione Identitaria in Italy. Following the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum of 2016 and the perceived rise in xenophobic and racist sentiment among the British general public, GI’s ambitions quickly expanded to include the UK.
While initially unsuccessful among the country’s longstanding and decidedly thuggish fascist networks, by the summer of 2017 the group was beginning to attract its own recruits on various social media platforms, particularly through Facebook. This bore fruition in October of that year with the official launch of Generation Identity United Kingdom And Ireland, under the leadership of the British activists Jordan Diamond (aka. James Windsor) and Sebastian Seccombe (aka. Seb James), and the rather mysterious Irish participant, Damhnait McKenna.
However the grouping almost immediately ran into bad publicity when ITV, the popular UK television channel, featured a documentary exposing the organisation’s racist underpinnings and paramilitary leanings with the title “Undercover: Inside Britain’s New Far Right”. This forced Diamond and Seccombe to downplay their involvement, generating considerable in-party criticism, while McKenna rapidly moved to the fore, one of a growing number of articulate young women given star status among the ultra-conservative and related alt-right movements in the Western world.
Since the start of 2018, the previously rather publicity-shy McKenna has become the driving force behind GIUK’s tech-savvy growth, appearing at a number of events and liaising with other identitarian bodies and individuals in Europe, and increasingly in North America. Her own history is the subject of much speculation, with allegations that she was formerly resident in the United States before her settlement in Dublin. Likewise, her apparent acceptance into a decidedly British nationalist milieu, however well-educated and middle-class, has struck many as decidedly odd. Even with the precedent set by the Irish emigrant and convert to UK exceptionalism, Anne Marie Waters, the boss of the fascist party, For Britain.
This incongruity can be seen in the name and promotional materials issued by the London-based headquarters of Generation Identity United Kingdom And Ireland, where the latter country is listed alongside England, Wales and Scotland as a kind of associate member of the political and territorial unit known as the UK. It also appears in the group’s iconography, where both islands are subsumed into one homogeneous whole, an extension of the historical phenomenon of Greater England. For a modern, relatively young Irish person to adopt and promote the revanchist and expansionist language of British nationalism, while certainly not unknown from Ireland’s own revisionist and apologist tendency, is more than a little peculiar.
Some of the tensions a unionist-style philosophy might stoke among local activists can be found in the recent reports of disagreements and splits in the already minuscule Irish branch of the UK group. This subsidiary of less than a dozen individuals has taken to calling itself by various titles, including Generation Identity United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, and the more partition-conscious, Generation Identity Éire/Ireland and Northern Ireland. Whatever the situation, a new claim by Damhnait McKenna that formerly opposed Irish republicans and British loyalists from the UK-occupied Six Counties are now working together to fulfil the movement’s objectives can be dismissed as empty rhetoric. While ongoing anti-immigrant violence in parts of unionist Belfast and Antrim has been linked to several pro-British terror gangs they seem to have little direct connection to the GIUK, beyond moving in the same far-right circles.
In many ways Generation Identity United Kingdom And Ireland seems to be following the well-trodden path beaten by the various manifestations of the amorphous alt-right movement in the United States and latterly Europe. The focus is on the young, relatively affluent and technologically adept, seeking those white supremacist members of Generation Y that Libcom has pleasingly dismissed as “Nazi-Hipsters”. This is reflected in the emphasis on professional-style PR messaging and branding, the use of the internet as a propaganda and recruitment tool, and the production of high quality websites and social media tools.
While the claims and beliefs of the Generation Identity network may appear to outside observers to be a mix of old fashioned racism, paranoia and nostalgia, to the disaffected and disgruntled youth of Western Europe the ideology of 21st century fascism offers a political and cultural explanation for all their perceived ills. And a simplistically appealing doctrine to solve them. Indeed, in many ways the solutions offered by the GI movement can be compared to the promises of the isolationist right in Britain, UKIP and xenophobic elements of the Conservative Party, which persuaded enough British voters in the Brexit plebiscite of 2016 to believe that the route to future prosperity lay in a return to a past Golden Age of neo-imperial ascendancy. And a nation cleansed and renewed through the excision of inferior outside influences.