Location: Antrim (NI), Armagh (NI), Belfast (NI), Carlow, Cavan,Clare, Cork, Derry (NI), Donegal, Down, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford, Wicklow
Founded in 2016, the National Party (NP) is the largest far-right political party in Ireland. It was co-founded by Justin Barrett, who serves as president, and James Reynolds, who is vice president, and its slogan is “Ireland Belongs to the Irish.” Barrett has an extremely long history in extremist politics. He got his start in the anti-abortion group, Family Solidarity, and later was active with the militant anti-abortion, Youth Defence, from roughly 1992 until 2004, which reportedly physically attacked women’s rights activists and had links with the fascist International Third Position organization. Barrett was arrested and fined (he was 28) as a result of a mini-riot Youth Defence members were involved in at a hospital in Dublin in 1999.
An early influence on Barrett’s ideology was American Christian Right activist Ralph Reed, who apparently told Barrett in a private 1994 meeting that demonstrations and rallies were all well and good, but it was the ability to affect public opinion and results at the ballot box that persuaded people to adopt an agenda. Barrett wrote The National Way Forward in the 1990s and was planning to reissue it around the turn of the millennia, but in 2002 decided not to due to its inflammatory nature. The book called for strict adherence to Catholic doctrine, the creation of a “Catholic Republic,” a total ban on abortion, and restrictions on immigration.
It also linked pedophilia to homosexuality, and decried sex outside marriage. Eventually Barrett engaged with Euroscepticism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and associated with neo-Nazi groups, specifically around 2002 when he was active against Irish affirmation of the EU Treaty of Nice. He also went to meetings in Italy held by the neo-fascist Forza Nuova and in Germany by the National Democratic Party (NPD), widely regarded as antisemitic, racist, and neo-Nazi. At the time, Barrett claimed he didn’t know the nature of these organizations.
In 2016, Barrett said that Ireland should ban Muslims from Ireland. Barrett ran as an independent candidate for the European Parliament in 2004; his campaign focused on abortion, immigration, and Euroscepticism and incorporated nationalist rhetoric like “putting Ireland first.” Absent from politics for some time after the election, Barrett re-emerged with the launch of the National Party.
A farmer in Longford, James Reynolds, is the party’s vice president. In the early 2000s, he served as chairman of the Longford branch of the Irish Farmers’ Association (1999-2003). He was elected as treasurer of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association in 2016 but was removed from his position after a vote of no confidence prompted by his National Party activism.
Reynolds appears to have a contentious history in these groups. In 2009, he and other Irish Farmers Association members formed “Farmers for No” to oppose the second Lisbon Treaty referendum, which they claimed would “fast-track Turkey’s application to join the EU,” doubling the number of farmers, and causing the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy payments to collapse. In 2019, Reynolds appeared in a livestream with Irish anti-immigrant activist and conspiracy theorist Gemma O’Doherty. Reynolds defended O’Doherty when she was suspended from YouTube for hate speech.
The National Party’s platform is anti-abortion, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ+, Eurosceptic, and oddly for a Catholic party, pro-death penalty. The NP has a robust social media presence, with a large chapter presence on Facebook, and a highly active, online and offline, Youth Wing, Oige Naisiunach. Its April 2022 posts on Twitter were focused on anti-immigrant messaging, a call for neutrality in the Ukraine conflict, and “House the Irish.”
Since an electoral washout in 2021, many longstanding members of the NP left the organization and openly criticized Barrett’s leadership style. Barrett reacted online with a video, criticizing his opponents. Recently the party has done little but recruit students with little to no political experience.