The chaotic truth about Irish ‘nationalism’

On 7th June the Republic of Ireland will have local council elections as well as electing the fourteen Irish members of the European Parliament. Will some form of racial nationalism prove stronger in Ireland than it was in last week’s English local elections?

As regular H&D readers will know, racial nationalist politics in England is struggling to recover from damage inflicted more than a decade ago. This weakness was reflected in last week’s council contests.

Online racial nationalist commentators have become very excited in recent months about Irish resistance to mass immigration and ‘wokeism’, especially after recent demonstrations in central Dublin; the decisive defeat in referendums on 8th March of two attempts to liberalise the Irish constitution in the direction of feminism and ‘LGBT’ rights; and anti-immigration riots in Dublin last November.

Close examination of political reality, however, suggests that these commentators have vastly overrated racial nationalism in Ireland, and that in fact our movement on the other side of the Irish Sea (whether broadly defined as anti-immigration, anti-woke and socially conservative, or narrowly defined as racial nationalist) is organisationally and electorally weaker even than the movement in England.

When it comes to the electoral side of politics, racial nationalists in 2024 tend to have only a childish level of understanding, partly because a generation has grown up informed by online speculation rather than experience.

A bus burning during the November 2023 Dublin riots

This gets worse when overseas observers look at the UK and Ireland, for several reasons. One is the Anglophobia which colours many overseas perspectives on the Irish question, especially in Catholic countries and/or among a generation of 21st century ‘nationalists’ who think in ‘Third Worldist’ or ‘anti-imperialist’ terms, and for whom the Irish are lionised as heroes of an anti-imperialist, anti-British struggle.

Another problem is that racial nationalists persistently overrate street demonstrations. Racial nationalists will tend to get more excited by a group marching down the street with banners, or shouting in a city centre, or even throwing petrol bombs, than by a political party building support with a properly organised branch structure nationwide, or engaging in serious ideological training of its cadres.

Partly this is due to learning the wrong lessons from a Hollywood version of national socialism. And partly it’s because (for younger movement activists especially) politics conducted in the style of football hooliganism is more exciting than educating themselves ideologically, attending meetings, and building support among the general public.

Therefore both the English Defence League and assorted anti-vaccination campaigns attracted support from racial nationalists, even though their respective causes were ideologically confused (at best), and despite the style of their activism being counter-productive and off-putting to the vast majority of Britons.

Perceptions of Irish anti-immigration politics are similarly unrealistic. What is actually happening in the southern portion of the Emerald Isle?

The headquarters of Aontú, which is probably the most signficant of the ‘right wing’ parties standing in the Irish elections, though it is much more a socially conservative party than a racial nationalist party.

Nominations have now closed for the European elections, and though there is another week before local council nominations close, most parties have announced their candidates.

At the European election Ireland is divided into three giant constituencies, using the Single Transferable Vote method, which allows voters to list candidates in order of preference (and to choose between the candidates offered by each party rather than accepting the priority listed by the party).

Dublin elects four MEPs, and the other two regions (Midlands/NW and South) five each. In practice STV means that a winning candidate needs both a fairly solid level of first preference support, and a certain level of appeal to supporters of rival candidates giving their second preferences, etc.

The positive aspect of this system for any well-organised anti-immigration party is that there is no such thing as a ‘wasted vote’ under STV, so really there is no excuse for the ‘right’ not to poll its maximum vote.

In Dublin this year there will be no fewer than eight rival slates standing for varying types of anti-immigration policies and social conservatism.

Some of these are old-fashioned Catholic reactionaries, emphasising an anti-abortion and anti-LGBT agenda, but also including aspects of anti-immigration politics. Others are closer to Reform UK and are linked to opposing the European Union (though calls for ‘Irexit’ remain quite marginal). And one or two are something resembling a racial nationalist movement, but divisions within that scene are even more bitter and intense than anything we see in the UK.

For example the closest thing to a racial nationalist party in Ireland used to be the National Party, but this has split into two factions, each of which seek to use the party name, and each of which are standing in Dublin, both for the European Parliament and in the city council elections.

The hostility between the two National Party factions has descended to a tragi-comic level, with the rival leaders engaged in legal battles over ownership of a stock of gold bars stored in an Irish bank vault. The farcical situation can be seen in the video above where Justin Barrett (leader of one faction) attacks his rival James Reynolds.

A third faction (which includes some former National Party members) has formed the Ireland First party, whose leader is a noted Putinist and whose Dublin candidate was a prominent anti-vaccination campaigner.

Anti-vaxx conspiracy theorists are also involved in a fourth group calling itself ‘The Irish People’. Their Dublin candidate Andy Heasman was involved in the recent anti-immigration demonstration, but so were representatives of other factions, including several who will be rivalling Heasman on the European ballot paper next month.

Independent Ireland – a social conservative party that has been involved in anti-abortion activism – is also on the ballot, as is the larger social conservative party Aontú which has had candidates in both the Republic and Northern Ireland (though of course Northern Ireland like the rest of the UK is no longer part of the European Union so has no elections on 7th June).

Farage-style, anti-EU politics is represented on the ballot by the Irish Freedom Party.

And last but (in his own eyes) not least, is independent candidate Malachy Steenson, a veteran leftwinger who has reinvented himself as a populist conservative and anti-abortion activist. Steenson was once a leading activist in Republican Sinn Féin, political wing of the terrorist splinter group ‘Continuity IRA’.

Malachy Steenson, now a ‘right-wing’ independent candidate, has formerly stood for the Workers Party – the Marxist political wing of the old ‘Official IRA’ – and more recently was active in ‘Republican Sinn Féin’, political wing of the terrorist ‘Continuity IRA’.

Similar patterns are repeated in the other two constituencies. In the Midlands/NW constituency the two rival ‘leaders’ of the factions who each claim the name ‘National Party’ (Justin Barrett and James Reynolds) are standing against each other. The leader of Aontú, Peadar Tóibin, is also on the ballot paper in Midlands/NW, as are candidates from ‘The Irish People’, ‘Independent Ireland’, and ‘Ireland First’.

A fourth ‘right-wing’ party leader is also on the ballot in the Midlands/NW constituency: Nigel Farage’s Irish ally Hermann Kelly, leader of the Irish Freedom Party.

In the South constituency several of the right-wing parties are again present, with the exception of the National Party, neither of whose factions are standing. Also on the ballot in the South is the barrister Michael McNamara, who was one of the leaders of the winning ‘No’ campaign against the proposed feminist and LGBT constitutional changes in this year’s referendum. McNamara is already a member of the Dublin Parliament.

At the previous European Election in Dublin the Greens won most first preferences – 17.5%. Then the two old parties (Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil) in second and third. The far-left Independents for Change polled 11.6%, ahead of Sinn Féin.

Eventually the Sinn Féin second preferences split very heavily in favour of Independents for Change, pushing them ahead of Fianna Fáil into third place.

Ultra-left ‘Independents for Change’ MEPs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace (seen above visiting Iraq in 2021) have become discredited by their pro-Moscow views and are unlikely to be re-elected next month.

Because of their extreme Putinism, I very much doubt Independents for Change will poll as well this time. A lot of their vote will go instead to the Trotskyist party, People Before Profit, or back to Sinn Féin.

The ‘shock’ for H&D readers (and for racial nationalists worldwide who entertain delusions about the strength of racial nationalism in Ireland) will be that despite all the demonstrations, riots, and online noise, Sinn Féin’s vote will increase in June, compared to the last Euro election in 2019.

Readers can probably perceive what a shambles this is. In theory STV would allow all of these ‘right wing’ votes to transfer eventually to the strongest candidate/party (which would almost certainly be Aontú), but it’s more likely to end up a total failure and a triumph for the establishment parties, with the most substantial challenge to the political elite coming from the far left rather than from the broadly defined ‘right’.

At local level, ‘Independent Ireland’ are defending thirteen seats – former independent or Fianna Fáil councillors who defected to the new party mostly in rural areas. As with the European seats (though of course on a smaller scale) local councillors in Ireland are elected in multi-member LEAs using the STV system, which unlike the English first-past-the-post system means that smaller parties (including the ‘far right’) do not have to combat the ‘wasted vote’ argument.

But given the chaos outlined above, it would be unrealistic to expect any significant breakthrough even at local council level for any of the tiny, disorganised and squabbling anti-immigration factions.

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