Planning document argues Irish far right has an image problem and lays out a ‘nationwide strategy’ for success

A photo of John Waters, Niall McConnell, and Justin Barrett

In a planning document acquired by The Beacon it’s revealed that Ireland’s far right is already looking ahead to the next elections. Highlighted in the document is Sinn Féin’s success at the polls and the reasons for its electoral victory. It’s argued that the Irish far-right and nationalist movements “can learn from this”. 

As a result, it’s put forward that “a new nationwide strategy” should be created in order to achieve success. Part of this strategy includes amalgamation of the various far-right groups and the creation of local branches across the country in order to attract new members.

The publication of the document comes as none of the far-right candidates in the recent general elections managed to attract more than 2% of the vote. 

The Sinn Féin example

The document begins by taking note of Sinn Féin’s success in the recent general election. According to the author of the document, Sinn Féin had dozens of people to canvass in every constituency and were “well drilled on what to say”. What’s more, they were “trained in ‘people skills’” and “focussed [sic] on the key failures of the Fine Gael and Fianna Fail [sic] government”. 

On top of this, the party “exploited the anger and fears of the voters” by using its national structure to great effect “and this won the protest vote”. 

Networking

As a result, it’s pointed out that this can be replicated by the various far-right and nationalist parties across Ireland. It’s written that most voters, when canvassed, “had never heard about” these parties. Given this, “It is very naive” to assume people will vote for them. 

In order to combat this it’s proposed to “build up local networks” in the months and years before elections. Once this is done and it has been “buil[t] up with new members”, they should then

expand these local networks and link them to others, use that to win over the hearts and minds and the trust of voters. This establishes your credibility on a local level and national level. This wins both the protest votes and local issues related votes. 

These branches are to hold weekly meetings to organise and plan. Longer-term goals include holding public meetings “to inform the general public about us”.

Another long-term objective proposed is that activists “attend public demonstrations and big events”, as well as canvassing on university campuses, to “spread our message” and “win over young people”. And it’s stated that activists need to “use garda contacts and military contacts and civil service contacts strategically”.

Networking across the continent should also be of concern to far-right activists according to the document. It’s written that they should:

Link up with other nationalist parties in Europe and learn from them. Invite them over to Ireland for conferences and seminars. Visit them in their home countries. Use the tactics and strategies which worked for them. Stay in close contact with them over time. 

It’s hoped that this would “focus on unifying nationalists, the nationalist vote and the transfer vote during elections”. The goal is to stop “divisions and anger” between the various far-right groups from being created and which “must be avoided at all costs”.

Image concerns

But one issue that comes in for particular scrutiny is the image of the far-right and nationalist movements. A section of the document is dedicated to the issue. It’s declared that there’s a “need to clean up the public image of the nationalist parties and independents”. This is because the movement has “been slandered, defamed, lied about”. 

The author writes that the movement “fully support[s] democracy” and is in fact “centre right”. The policies of the wider movement included opposition to “EU federalism”, upholding the Irish constitution as well as the right to free speech, accountability of politicians, the gardaí, and government organisations, and “the right to life of all persons”. 

However, in the same section it’s highlighted that they are opposed to anti-fascism, which is described as “a communist and fascist organisation” and as being “anti democracy [sic]”. It’s also written that they are opposed to “mass migration and open borders”. And various rights — workers’, LGBTQI+, human, and civil — need to be protected “against the forces of the left” and “the ruthless Globalism [sic] of ‘liberals’”. 

All of these proposals, it’s asserted, “are reasonable” and should therefore attract “the vast majority of Irish people”. The document makes no mention of the exit poll which showed that immigration was not a major concern to voters in the recent general election. It also avoids discussion of the far right’s targeting of minorities and asylum seekers in Ireland. 

In a second document which appears to be a companion to the first, it’s declared that they “oppose left wing loonies and liberal traitors” as well as being against “open borders and mass migration”. So-called liberals and the left are accused of promoting “irresponsibility and greed, prejudices and suspicions” and the “atomisation of individuals”. And it is these groups “who are trying to impose their dictatorship on Ireland”. 

“A marketing ploy”

The Beacon spoke to Dr. Natasha Dromey, an expert on extremism, about the document. She believes the document shows that far-right groups in Ireland “are starting to recognise that they cannot succeed as they currently stand”. As a result, it reads as a “marketing ploy” and a “makeover” without the groups changing their underlying ideology. 

Dr. Dromey said they are attempting to do this by

trying to place themselves more into the nationalist narrative rather than the overtly right wing. In this way they will aim to fit themselves into the mainstream needs and wants of the electorate.

If they succeed in this “they may have some chance of getting a more stable support base”.

But for now, Dr. Dromey thinks that the Irish electorate is “much more focused on the core economic and social issues” than the topics that concern the far right. And the lecturer told The Beacon that the far right will continue to be unsuccessful in increasing its support base, at least in the short term.

Election failure

In the recent general election the far right failed to make any substantial gains. Nationally it didn’t manage to poll more than 2%. The release of the document is clearly a reaction to this failure. It lays out a clear path from the current situation of having numerous parties with more or less the same policies to one where there’s a more united movement. 

Whether or not the suggestions are taken on board remains to be seen. Regardless, it proves that the far right hasn’t gone away just because it lost one election. 

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – National Party/ Facebook – The Irish Patriot/ YouTube – Screenshot