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The State killing of George Nkencho

10 January 2021

George Nkencho, 27, was shot and killed by Gardai in Dublin at the end of December.  George, like John Carthy who was killed in the same way 20 years before him, had mental health issues, he had been detained under the mental health act in January 2020 but did not receive the necessary help and he and his family were left to deal with the consequences of living with mental illness.  There are many families who know that burden and indeed the stigma that is still attached to serious mental illness.

Investment in mental health care in ireland has been dragging along the bottom for decades.  By 2016 around 6,995 Irish people had taken their own lives since 2000 and incidents of self-harm had risen 6 percent since the banking crisis.  The Royal College of Surgeons had found that one in five young people had mental health issues and the numbers of those suffering from depression was estimated to be closing in on the half million mark. The figure for 2012 alone revealed that just over one tenth of the population was on anti depressants but Minister for Health Leo Varadkar nevertheless cut €12 million from the €35 million budget for mental health provision in 2016.  Varadkar defended the cut by pointing out that spending had increased since 2011 but the underlying trend was downward and spending on mental healthcare at the time was  “€145 million below pre-crisis levels, despite a population increase of 400,000 in the same period.”

A 2006 study, “A vision for Change”, was produced by Trinity College “to assist in reforming the abysmal provision of mental health services throughout the country”. To fully implement the study's findings would have required 1,800 new staff but 'Mental Health Reform' has noted that in 2016 staffing levels were only 75 percent of what was required “to adequately treat the staggering number of people availing of mental health services.”  In 2016 the Union of Students Ireland warned that 19.5 percent of people aged 19-24 have had a mental health disorder and 75 percent of mental health difficulties arise before age 25.

Add to this systemic underfunding the damage caused by the direct provision system.  A consultant psychiatrist working with asylum seekers in Ireland, Dr Bracken, asserted that he had no doubt that the direct provision system played “a major role in damaging the mental health of those who must live in it for prolonged periods”.  Many who experience the particular torture of direct provision talk of anxiety and hopelessness.  Many had self-harmed according to one Dublin doctor and there had been a number of suicides.

More generally, the experience of immigration can exacerbate feelings of alienation and stress and for anyone exhibiting symptoms the system can be even more difficult to access.  Without a professional diagnosis the family are left alone to assume the worst and to live with the symptoms being exhibited by their loved one while they lash out in confusion and fear as George did, punching a shop attendent.  Institutionalisation only occurs when patients reach crisis point and are sectioned so a serious episode must occur before a patient is admitted to hospital.

George never got that chance, suffering from the pain of his psychosis, angry and afraid of everything and everyone around him he died in  hail of bullets feet away from the sanctuary of his family and his home.  He was in desperate need of help from the state, what he got was a firing squad.

He was surrounded by armed Garda, all supposedly crack shots, who fired 6 rounds at him, one of which according to a report was fired in to his back before George 'swung his arm' towards his killers and the last of which came four seconds after he had staggered backwards and was already disabled.  Two rounds ended up entering the hall, a very lucky escape for three family members who were desperately trying to cajole George home to safety.  For anyone who has experienced the psychotic episodes of a mentally ill friend or relative the scenario, apart from the killing, bears a desperately sad familiarity but in this case no health professionals were called to the scene and brute force was applied, all the easier to do because George was an immigrant, an 'outsider'.

Many reasons have been given to explain to a shocked public why this was “unavoidable” but it took a fortnight to come up with the latest official explanatory; that Public Order Units equipped with full length shields, helmets, stab proof vests and non lethal weapons and are stationed around the city were “not available” on the day.  We can wonder if an eviction had been taking place would they have been there, they habitually have been in the last few years.

The feeble excuse making for a disgraceful murder of a very vulnerable mentally ill individual has been backed up by a far right campaign of forgery, lies and distortion coupled to a vehemently racist campaign on social media directed at left TD's and left republicans who have come under sustained attack on their own social media threads.

These fascists conducting the attacks position themselves as the defenders of a strong state, supporting every state outrage and seeking to extend it, helped along by the economic crisis and the profit-before-health policy of a very unstable government in the face of the pandemic.  They seek to mobilise the reactionary petit bourgeoisie to defend the interests of profits.  Their main consideration in this case is to blame George for his own killing, whipping up racism as a way of scapegoating immigrants.  Fascism is always born as a lie, it cannot tell the truth about the systemic reasons for the oppression we suffer because first and foremost they are defenders of big capital - and they always come for the most marginalised first, in this case by blaming a mentally ill immigrant for his own death and diverting attention away from the actions of the armed state and the sheer inadequacy of mental health provision.

Well we won't let them, George was one of us, he suffered from the same illnesses and from the same lack of proper health care as the rest of the Irish working class.  His skin colour and outsider status undoubtedly made it easier in the minds of the state forces to kill him.  A recent survey found 30% of frontline Gardai to have racist perceptions of immigrants of African origin, and they are practiced in their 'art', accustomed to harrassing minorities and traveller communities, their most frequent victims.  They are also accustomed to harrassing the political opposition, for example during the water charges campaign, and particularly and most vigorously, they are accustomed to suppressing their historic enemies, republicans, who frequently were subject to the tender mercies of the “heavy squad”.  The fascist scum want us to forget our own history and join with the state forces in blaming George for his own murder and in scapegoating immigrants. We won't let them do that either.

Solidarity with the family of George Nkencho-No to racism!
Solidarity with the socialists and republicans attacked by the far right
For an anti fascist united front to confront these agents of capitalism

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