In April of 2017 Ireland’s newest political party held one of their first press events in Dundalk. Referring to themselves simply as the ‘National Party’ the meeting seemed more focus more on maintaining the enthusiasm of its members rather than winning over new ones. This was my first exposure to the National Party; a group who are six months old and was facilitated through social media and video clips posted on their website (at the time of writing the group has just under 700 followers on Twitter).
From reading their manifesto and literature it is difficult to understand exactly what the party stands for. While their language tends to be unambiguous to the point of being harsh, it is often used to communicate points vague enough to be interperated how the reader pleases. This is broken perhaps most notably in their stance on the Death Penalty and Abortion rights which is clear, targeted, and controlled throughout. You may remember the group as those who had a meeting in Dublin’s Merrion Hotel canceled and the brief media frenzy that followed.
The National Party was founded in 2016 by Justin Barrett (ex – Youth Defence leader) and James Reynolds (ex – Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmer’s Association Treasurer). They are, according to their own manifesto, the necessary political resistance, to the globalisation of contemporary politics, the sole political organisation willing to protect against the dissolving of Irish identity.
Their idea of a clear and autonomous Irish identity is held through all lines of their political manifesto. The accompanying linger of nostalgia cannot be shaken off no matter how firmly, if not blindly, their reading of history and political theory is applied. It is easy to recognise. Separating the beliefs of the party and the beliefs of its two founding members however is not so straightforward. Throughout all of the party’s media presence there is an incestuous and consistent return to its leaders – not all that surprising given Justin Barrett’s calls in the past to abolish parliamentary systems in favour of consolidating power into the hands of one president. While this is possibly used to mask a small number of like mined politicians, the importance of the leaders often overshadows the importance of the group. Images of the strong male figure alongside dramatic photographs of Ireland’s landscape resemble leadership, perhaps even martyrdom, but communicate very little.
Their portrayal of the Irish identity is boring and predictably flawed. It is one that has somehow never changed. Their portrayal ignores history, migration, and evolution. While they amount to little more than a clumsy and deluded group we are highlighting their existence to warn you of their existence. To show them that their poorly formed ideologies are not held to any high standard by the average Irish person. They are out of touch, they represent a small amount of people in this country, they are deranged – and while they should be called out and debated, they should not be taken seriously. They have not earned that level of respect.
To come to any understanding of what it is the party stands for, it is best to read their nine founding principles. Don’t be fooled by their gaudy use of over-indulgent language: At a glance the principles seem well thought out, written as if they had been drafted by a legal expert – this impression quickly fades. The principles resemble the typically confused combination of personal freedom in the absence of oversized government combined with hardline legislation found in almost all far-right groups. They are defenders against political tyranny and proponents of hard line criminal justice reform. They argue that the state should, above all else, answer to the people but that it should never legislate for abortion. Pseudo-intellectualism used to obscure a poorly informed reading of history may be excusable, but the active discrimination against those of minority backgrounds in Ireland isn’t.
Co-founder, Justin Barrett, on April 21 tweeted a picture of a man apparently having gained Irish citizenship with the caption “if you can’t see the two fingers you are Liberal beyond hope #weareirish”.
— Justin Barrett (@JustinBarrettNP) April 22, 2017
Barrett is in favour of the creation of a Catholic republic, prioritising employment based on nationality, has vocalised his wish to ban Muslims from entering the country, and views racial profiling by police as an uncontroversial part of law and order. He has, in the past, ambiguously claimed to be anti gay marriage but not anti gay people. He also spoke at a Neo-Nazi rally about reproductive rights he has since claimed to know little about. This, according to Barrett, is the face of Irish nationalism.
How abortion rights became a women’s rights issue is beyond the understanding of Justin Barrett, leader of the National Party. How it ‘even’ became a human rights issue is also beyond his understanding. How this clumsy amalgamation of opinion and (boring) rhetoric is supposed to be taken seriously is, I admit, beyond mine. A brave and scathing criticism from Mr. Barrett directed towards Renua painted them as spineless – only interested in moving in whatever way the political wind decided to blow – is somewhat difficult to digest spewing from the mouths of a nativist organisation little more than six months old.
In response to this we could get angry or we could call them fascists. It has always been my opinion that misinformed ideology like this should be addressed immediately to show those it attacks that they are welcome and valued members of our society. But it should be done so in a way that doesn’t play into the hands of the aggressors. They want nothing more than to be vilified and attacked and any reader should make no mistake about that.
And so, right on cue, the inevitable contradiction of radical nationalism presents itself: Its fatal inability to recognise its own subjectivity. Fundamentalism in any of its personas is appealing because it’s easy to follow. It presents the possibility of becoming enlightened by removing the perquisite of critical thought; intelligence (and the status that accompanies it) in a vacuum of effort; achievement without endeavour. I would not argue that their interpretations are insignificant: The only way a person can make sense of the world is to make decisions as she/he processes information, creating allies with those who make the same decisions as us while casting those who don’t aside and into ‘out-groups’.
Identity formation is a deeply sociological and ongoing group of processes all of which are fundamentally subjective constructions. Presenting (much like critiquing) these as objective truths misses the point entirely. The National Party fall deeply into this trap when presenting the existence of their nationhood, their reading of history, and their sense of national obligation as such a truth. While their claims are impressive they, like all far right groups, present little to no evidence in support of them.
Perhaps their biggest downfall is their portrayal of themselves as a ‘Catcher in the Rye’ figure. Regardless of how softly they decide to articulate it they fundamentally argue that we need them more than we are capable of understanding. We need those enlightened few to protect us against our own ignorance. If the Irish population is so ignorant, there may be some truth in the claim that the National Party will work for the people who will support them in the ballot box rather than their own elected members – after all we need them to. But do we view ourselves with such little respect as to accept their judgment?
The National Party, like all other far-right organisations will fail. They may disguise their bigotry as a love for country but it is nothing more than bitterness. Do Mr. Barrett and Mr. Reynolds believe their own rhetoric? It is difficult to say. Perhaps they are just craving attention from a world that’s left them behind.
Even if the goal of contemporary politics was to somehow dissolve an Irish identity that until now was completely immune to change (which I assure you it is not), then why would we place our faith in The National Party? Mr. Barrett and Mr. Reynolds, like Mr. Bannon in Washington, are incapable of delivering on their promises. They’re losing to the globalists. Ireland is better than them. Ireland doesn’t want them.
‘Who do you trust?’, Mr. Barrett proclaims with one final cadence in Dundalk. In truth, I trust you, Justin. I trust you’re out of your depth, I trust you’re unfit to rule, and I trust that you probably don’t believe half of what you say unlike those few who follow you.