Republican House Candidate Posted IRA Cosplay Video

Jessica Phelps/Getty
Jessica Phelps/Getty

The “gunfluencer” turned Texas Republican congressional candidate Brandon Herrera posted to YouTube a video in which he wears a balaclava, fires an Armalite rifle, uses Irish stereotypes while joking about the IRA, and says he “fucking hate[s] the British.”

“I’m not doing it because I like or support the IRA,” says Herrera, now 28 and a candidate for the Republican nomination in Texas’ 23rd U.S. House district, in the video posted on March 17, 2023—St Patrick’s Day—and titled “The AR-180: The IRA’s Lucky Charm.”

“They were pretty heavily socialist. Of course they really hurt a lot of innocent people sometimes. I’m not doing this video because I like the IRA or I support them. I’m doing this video because I fucking hate the British.

“Guys, I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Mostly.”

On Tuesday, Herrera will face incumbent Tony Gonzales in a primary runoff.

Gonzalez, a U.S. Navy veteran, has represented the district, an agricultural swath of south-west Texas and parts of San Antonio, since 2021.

Texas 23 includes Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers were shot dead in May 2022 at an elementary school.

Gonzales’ vote for gun control reform in the aftermath of the massacre has helped make him a target for far-right attacks. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Andy Biggs of Arizona are among far-right members of Congress now supporting Herrera. The actor Matthew McConaughey is among figures supporting Gonzales.

Speaking to The Daily Beast, Aidan McQuade, from Northern Ireland and a former director of Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights group, condemned Herrera for displaying “jaw-dropping stupidity” in his IRA-themed video.

“It is quite an achievement to make a video of which the anti-Irish stereotyping is the least offensive part,” McQuade said.

Other remarks by Herrera in the video include a promise to get “belligerently drunk” to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and, “The IRA [were] very famously unhappy for a certain group of folks going after their Lucky Charms,” a reference to famous ads for a U.S. breakfast cereal featuring a leprechaun character.

Over footage of a gun jamming, meanwhile, Herrera says: “This is why Ireland isn’t free.”

McQuade said: “From a historical perspective it is jaw-droppingly stupid to suggest that the course of the Troubles could have been changed with a more dependable Armalite.

“From a human perspective, Herrera’s attitude to violence seems that of an adolescent video-gamer blissfully ignorant of the trauma that war inflicts on a society, and the unending grief of victims’ devastated families.”

The Armalite assault rifle was an American gun that became synonymous with the Provisional Irish Republican Army or IRA, the dominant republican terror group during the Troubles, the period of violent unrest in Northern Ireland and mainland Britain from 1968 to 1998.

The accepted death toll from the Troubles, established in the book Lost Lives by authors David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton and David McVea, is 3,720. The Provisional IRA killed more than 1,700 people–hundreds of them civilians. According to Ulster University, a college in Northern Ireland, more than 47,000 people were injured in shootings, bombings and other acts of violence.

McQuade grew up in South Armagh, on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, during the Troubles, seeing violence close up. A former winner of the BBC’s Mastermind quiz show, answering questions about the Irish independence leader Michael Collins and the U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, McQuade is now an independent human rights consultant and the author of historical novels including Some Service to the State, set in 1925, an earlier period of Irish civil strife.

McQuade added: “Coming from a comedian, as Herrera attempts to be, such attitudes would be tiresome. But coming from someone who hopes to be an elected representative such callous and facile thinking is inexcusable.”

Also known as the AK Guy, Herrera has more than 3.4 million followers on YouTube. His videos have courted trouble before. Earlier this year, in response to a video in which Herrera fires a German World War II submachine gun (which he calls “the original ghetto blaster”) and goose-steps while an associate wears a German uniform, Gonzales branded his opponent a “known neo-Nazi.”

Herrera denied the charge, saying: “This is the death spiral ladies and gentlemen. He has to cry to his liberal friends about me, because Republicans won’t listen anymore.”

Herrera has also attracted criticism after joking about suicides among military veterans and previous links to neo-Confederate groups.

His IRA-themed video runs more than 19 minutes. It includes discussion and demonstrations of different versions of the Armalite rifle and is scored by a version of “Come Out Ye Black and Tans,” a rebel song attributed to the Irish writer Dominic Behan.

Herrera says: “Today’s topic for our range video is the AR-180, aka my little Armalite.”

“Little Armalite,” sometimes known as “My Little Armalite,” is another Irish rebel song.

Herrera’s campaign manager Kimmie Gonzalez responded to an email from The Daily Beast but did not offer comment on the video or McQuade’s response.

A representative for Gonzales did not respond to a request for comment.

Chris Harris, vice-president of communications for Giffords, a gun control group founded by Gabby Giffords, a former Democratic congresswoman who was shot and seriously wounded while in office, said: “Brandon Herrera is reckless and dangerous. He gleefully promotes violence and extremism.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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