In the mind of Justin Barrett Ireland will be saved by installing a Catholic dictatorship

With the National Party running a number of candidates in the coming election, it’s worth considering what its preferred Ireland would look like. Its website gives  us some information. The party claims that it is “dedicated to the fulfilment of the Irish national idea”. It’s written that this means Irish people have a “right to exist as a nation” and to defend that right. 

On the website it’s argued that the “establishment” is “corrupt and amoral” for its promotion of “replacement level immigration”. Standing up against the “European Superstate” and its “anti-Irish” policies is also promised. And as the rebels in 1916 stood up to the British Empire, so too will the National Party stand up to “international liberalism”. 

Details on how it would go about carrying out its policies are lacking; as are the particulars of the deeper ideology which informs these policies. As always, the devil is in the details. And the best place to get the details — and a better look at what an Ireland ruled by the National Party would look like — can be found in the writings of its leader, Justin Barrett. 

In his book, The National Way Forward, he calls for a constitution configured according to Catholic doctrine and the creation of a Catholic dictatorship. This, he argues, is the only way to save Ireland from the scourge of liberalism and immorality. Barrett’s work was self-published in 1998. It contains chapters dedicated to, amongst others, the X case, economics, the failings of the Irish parliamentary system and the dangers immigration poses to Ireland.

The X case

Early on in his book Barrett rails against the judges who decided the outcome of the now landmark X case. A 14-year-old girl became pregnant after she was raped by her neighbour in December 1991. Distressed by this, early the following year she travelled with her parents to the UK to have an abortion. Having been made aware of the intentions of the girl and her parents, the Irish attorney general sought an injunction to prevent the girl from going ahead with the abortion. 

After the High Court upheld the injunction, the girl and her family appealed the decision to the Supreme Court who heard from experts that the girl was suicidal as a result of the sexual assault and injunction. The Supreme Court voted three to two to overturn the injunction, thereby allowing the girl to travel to the UK to have an abortion.

Barrett held the judges in contempt for their ruling. As a result of the case he accused them and the government of allowing for “pre-emptive infanticide”. To him, the judges were involved in a conspiracy to introduce legalised abortion to Ireland. He asks if

the judgements were nothing more than an elaborately constructed cover for what the Court thought that the law ought to be and, consequently, in defiance of better knowledge and higher responsibility, declared it to be? 

The judges, he proclaims, “in their arrogance… sought to impose” a government of judges. This, he says, was a “usurpation” of democracy in which “nothing less we may assume was intended”. Instead, the government should have impeached the judges in order to restore justice. But it presumably didn’t given that this was the result the government wanted, according to Barrett. His evidence for this is that “given the longevity” of the appointment of judges, the outcome was planned long before the X case came before the Supreme Court. 

He also argued that the Supreme Court decision “benefitted no one, least of all Miss X”. Barrett also called into question the actions of the girl’s family, writing that “serious questions arise concerning the behaviour of the X family”. 

Conspiracies

Barrett is also a proponent of conspiracy theories in other areas. When it comes to the European Union (EU) it is no different. He writes:

The European Union is the culmination of the socialist ideal for Europe, and must inevitably emerge through many interim disguises as a Socialist Superstate. 

Irish people only support the government’s EU policies because of the financial benefits it brings. And, according to Barrett, “money is what most concerns the politically uninformed”. 

He accuses Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael — two parties of the same right-wing neoliberal coin — as being “firmly within the grasp of their most liberal elements”. This so-called liberal element is working with the media in order to dictate the decision-making process of government. Barrett says that such people in the media have “abused their privileged positions” and have “shaped the political agenda… with a liberal slant”. And given the power of the media, politicians overly focused on it have resorted to “acquiescence to the Liberal onslaught”. 

When it comes to general elections he accuses the media of using “doctored polling” to push certain agendas. He believes that the liberal conspirators act as a kind of mafia who will punish those deemed not liberal enough. Barrett opines:

The party which steps so much as one foot outside what is deemed politically correct will be informed by flashing newspaper headlines just how unpopular they have become

After having “beavered away for years” within the mainstream political parties, the intent of liberals is “to hollow out the system”. This has resulted in actions which he finds contemptible such as when “Perversion of the lowest form was legalised”. In this case the “perversion” he is talking about is the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Liberals have also apparently used their power to “bludgeon in divorce”. 

The well-known history of Ireland’s domination by the Catholic Church is another liberal conspiracy. Barrett declares that the so-called “great Catholic era” in Ireland never happened. Instead, it is a “Liberal invention”. He goes on to write:

They would have us believe that at one time this country was ruled by reactionary, narrow-minded Catholics, whose intrusive and domineering influence was imposed on the Irish people through fear and ignorance. While disputing, of course, the evil effects of such influence many modern conservatives seem to accept in unison that such did exist, which is simply not true as even the most cursory examination of the facts easily reveals. The mythology itself is so caricatured as not to be serious.

In fact, he believes that “the process of secularisation began at the very least with the foundation of the State”. When the Catholic Church in Ireland “accepted a flawed constitution”, and in it the recognition of the equality of religions, “it ceased to lay claim to upon its rights” on both metaphysical and physical levels. He later writes that Ireland should have “a Catholic ethos for a Catholic people”. 

Conspiratorial thinking also extends to the Catholic Church itself. In fact, in one paragraph he laments that nobody had yet examined the links between what he claims is the rise of liberalism and socialism amongst some of the clergy and “the emergence of scandals concerning paedophile priests”. 

He also accuses gay people of being responsible for the rampant sexual abuse of children by priests. Any priest who sexually abused a child is “acting contrary” to Catholic teachings. But, “as a homosexual his actions are consistent”.  And this, along with “doctrinal laxity, produced by Liberalism”, resulted in the sexual abuse scandals of the 1990s.

A “quiet menace”

On issues of immigration Barrett is particularly scornful. He is convinced that immigrants have been “pouring in”, with the government’s passing of the Refugees Act in 1996 being, as he calls it, a “Come Hither Act”. Once here, migrants begin to “congregate in gangs”. They are, he says, “not always or even usually dangerous” but still “exerted a kind of quiet menace”. 

There is a “myth”, he writes, that migrants “integrate into society”. With this in mind he wants Ireland to be “unhindered by any foreign people”. In perhaps what is one of the earliest uses of the term by the Irish far right, he regards migrants as part of the new “Plantations” of Ireland. And if that wasn’t enough, he puts forth the idea that liberals “look to the word ‘refugee’ as a device to deceive people into accepting immigrants”. 

Barrett also echoes the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory years before it was conceived and popularised. Liberals, he states, want to open Ireland’s borders in order to carry out “the denigration and replacement of all that is specifically Irish with something that is hybrid”. And the end result of this will be “an immigrant majority” further down the line. 

A Catholic dictatorship

When it comes to democracy the National Party leader relates that he doesn’t hold much love for the concept. He believes that the country is not suited to this form of government. In fact, Ireland was never “intended to have that governmental form”. It is, in Barrett’s interpretation, a “hangover of colonial rule” and therefore “not properly suited to Irish circumstances”. More specifically, “parliamentary government is foreign to the Irish people” and, as a result, “unsuited” to Irish needs. And although he insists that he is not justifying fascism the reality is much different. 

The “central problem”, he contends, is that there is a “potential for tyranny at the heart of the democratic idea”. He sees such tyranny in the idea of majority decision via the ballot box. Divorce, for example, was legalised in Ireland after the majority of people voted to legalise it, something he takes particular issue with. He also attacks the US Constitution for its religious freedoms. This resulted in the US

excluding the possibility of grounding its Constitutional principles on the only firm foundation: that is to say, the theological formation which underpins Catholic Social thinking derived from the reality of being the One True Church.

The solution to Ireland’s democratic woes is a “government inspired by God”.  And this “must be done largely in terms which have been set out by the Church”. Barrett proclaims that the constitution is indeed the place for the “moral edicts” of the church. Otherwise people will have their freedoms “filched by democracy”.  

His ideal is what he calls a “presidential government”; a government with a single person at its head and through whom the previously delegated ministerial powers flow. Their powers are “authoritarian” but this “is required”. And although the leader of this new Ireland would have to “observe constitutional proprieties”, they would be “relatively free to enact the programme for which he was elected”. All decisions “will only have been enacted on his authority”. 

Barrett asserts that Irish people need to “clear our heads” of liberalism and liberal ideas such as religious freedom. And, what’s more, he says that people also need to rid themselves of, what he calls the “most pernicious of all” ideas, a right to an opinion. Unironically, he also refers to liberalism as “a totalitarian regime”. 

Such authoritarian rule is justified by the newly peaceful society it will create. Barrett avows

That people will quickly be accustomed to a new way of thinking about politics we cannot doubt, and on every level the change will be refreshing and positive.

In the meantime, the movement “must enter mainstream associations” with the intention of recruiting new members. 

He closes his book by calling for an Ireland that is “Catholic, Gaelic, and Free”. 

Far-right activism

None of this is particularly surprising. Barrett has a history of far-right activism. Since his early days in Family Solidarity, a group opposed to the lifting of restrictions on abortion, divorce, and gay rights, Barrett has been consistently on the far right. This is in spite of — or perhaps because of — his role in the youth wing of Fine Gael in the late 1980s. 

Later on as a member of Youth Defence, an avowedly anti-choice group who physically attacked womens’ rights activists, he was arrested alongside other members of the group after an anti-abortion picket of Adelaide Hospital in Dublin turned into a “mini-riot”. Barrett was arrested and fined £100. As reported by the Irish Independent, he later refused to apologise to the family of a dying woman who were in the hospital at the time. His reasoning was that he and his compatriots “did not believe they had caused offence”. 

In May 2000 he spoke at a rally of the German neo-Nazi party, Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD). He spoke a total of three times at NPD events. Later that year he attended a conference of Italian far-right party Forza Nuova. 

Time has not tempered Barrett’s views. In an interview during the Repeal campaign in 2018 he, without hesitation, called for doctors who perform abortions to be given the death penalty. On the other hand, Barrett, who once campaigned against divorce, has now changed his mind on the issue after his first marriage broke down.

Looking ahead

Considering all of this, it’s easy to imagine what a country led by the National Party would look like; authoritarian, openly racist, and disdainful of the rights of women. Socially, Ireland has come a long way in 20 years. But Barrett and the National Party still hold some appeal. It’s unlikely that this appeal will turn into seats in the Dáil, at least this time around. 

But the further down the line we go the harder it is to predict what will happen. We’ve seen an explosion in the appeal of the far right in the last 18 months. If it continues at the same pace then by the time the next general election comes around, the National Party could very well succeed in getting its members elected. Even gaining one seat would be a coup. 

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been disastrous for Ireland. Unless something is done to reverse the economic and social injustice inflicted on Ireland by successive governments the allure of the far right will only grow. And this means we must be on guard for what could come. So, while Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been immoral and inept, Barrett and the National Party would be fatal.

Featured image via Screenshot – The Jim Jeffries Show