Local & European elections – stand against the far-right threat

By Finn McKenna

The local and European elections on 7 June will have a different dynamic than previous such elections, due to the significantly increased presence of right-populist and far-right candidates in many constituencies. Any breakthrough for far-right forces will mean an increase in racism, misogyny and LGBTQphobia in mainstream politics, which is a danger that must be resisted.  

The ugly forces of the far right

According to their websites, the far-right Irish Freedom Party is standing 19 candidates for local councils and three for European seats; Ireland First is running three local candidates and two European; the fascistic National Party is running seven local and two European. 

For those who don’t know, the National Party is the party whose former leader, the Hitler-quoting Justin Barrett, made headlines in 2023 during a bitter internal dispute about who took the Party’s €400,000 gold bullion from their headquarters. Barrett was ousted, but the National Party still limps on with its disgusting and hateful politics. Their members are identifiable as virtually all male and usually uniformed, giving them both a sinister and cringeworthy aura. 

The Irish Freedom Party is led by the hardline Catholic Herman Kelly who was schooled in anti-immigration politics by Nigel Farage. 

The newer group on the scene, Ireland First, is a motley crew of self-titled “citizen journalists”, who try to whip up racist hatred; often organised and directed against refugee accommodation centres. In a recent tirade, party leader and ignoramus Derek Blighe stated that Helen McEntee should be put back in the kitchen. This incendiary comment illustrates the pathetic and reactionary approach of the likes of Blighe. 

Other loathsome Ireland First candidates include Philip Dwyer, standing in the European elections in Dublin, known for a history of animal abuse (kicking dogs) and for using his social media platforms to spread racist and transphobic hate, as well as deranged conspiracy theories such as the Great Replacement – the idea that global elites, including the establishment in Ireland, are out to eliminate the “White Race”.

The right-populist trend

Other, less ideologically extreme but more opportunistic and likely to make an impact, are the right-populist groups like Aontú and Independent Ireland, both particularly aiming to build bases in rural communities. Aontú originated with leader Peadar Toibín’s socially conservative split from Sinn Féin over abortion rights, and Independent Ireland was founded by right-wing independent TDs Michael Collins, Richard O’Donoghue and Michael Fitzmaurice, whose aim is to tap into the alienation within sections of rural Ireland, which includes highlighting tougher immigration policies.

Richard O’Donoghue was once a Fianna Fáil member. It’s worth registering the point that there is a common gene pool with members of this new formation, and many other right-wing independents, and the traditional parties of Irish capitalism, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. In short they offer more of the same, with added racism and bigotry.

In Wexford, independent TD Verona Murphy, formerly of Fine Gael, has also organised an electoral alliance of independent candidates.

Far-right strategy

Even before the elections, existing far-right forces, of which there are hundreds of agents and provocateurs active daily online, organising in Telegram chats, have had an impact on Irish society – particularly on the question of immigration and refugees. Now, these forces are set on using these elections to both further spread their agenda of division, and to politically boost themselves by gaining more legitimacy. Should they win seats, their ability to do this will be strengthened.

These groups and individuals are dangerous and want to set the clock back in Irish society for women and the LGBTQ+ community. They vilify people of colour and scapegoat poor immigrants and refugees for the problems in housing – directing people’s anger away from causes and culprits: the capitalist elites and their political representatives. They offer only despair and division and have no alternative on offer to those who are caught on the sharp edge of the housing crisis, struggling with cost-of-living, emaciated public services and so on. 

These forces, whether right-populist or far right, are at their core creatures of capitalism – they uphold the rights of bosses, landlords and their system, which exists at the expense of the rights and wellbeing of the huge majority of workers and young people.

Only socialist politics and united struggle can improve the condition of the working-class majority in Ireland. Reject the far-right cretins at the ballot box this election!

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