This past fall, the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE) released a report on Ireland’s growing far-right scene, pointing to the demonization of immigrants and refugees as one of the main issues fueling the fire. Within months of our reporting, protests against immigrants and refugees spread across the country, led by many of the groups we profiled. Now, the anti-immigrant Irish Freedom Party (IFP), with links to white supremacists and an agenda that also rejects LGBTQ+ rights and laws against hate speech, plans to run candidates all over the country.
The growth of this far-right party and similar movements is a problem for the people of Ireland and, given current global trends, could be the start of yet another democracy under attack from growing far-right extremism. We’ve already seen this trend in the US and throughout Europe and these movements based on exclusion and bigotry need to be forcefully rejected. In January, Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar rightly said, “I just don’t think there’s any excuse for hatred being directed at anyone because of their nationality or their racial background or any other reason.” Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins also denounced the hatred: “What is unforgivable and must be opposed – publicly, vocally and unequivocally – are those who are trying to take advantage by sowing hate and building fear.”
Ireland is not alone in experiencing a growing far right, something that is happening across Europe. The rise to power of the Sweden Democrats, a party founded in neo-Nazism, and Georgia Meloni, with her fascist ties, in Italy, shows how significantly far-right movements have infiltrated the mainstream, usually by demonizing and dehumanizing immigrants to gain votes. In other cases, specifically Hungary and Poland, anti-democratic and rights-restricting regimes are in control. And in the U.S., we cannot discount Trump’s influence over the increasingly extreme Republican party, whose members regularly stoke anti-immigrant sentiment to build their base.
In all these cases, far-right leaders have cynically endorsed the white supremacist Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which motivated mass shootings in Christchurch, N.Z, and Buffalo, N.Y., among many others. This terrorism-inspiring lie asserts that white people are being intentionally “replaced” by immigrants in their home countries through a planned effort, sometimes laid at the feet of Jews or globalists.
Without a forceful response, Ireland could see the IFP or similar political parties enter government, or at a minimum pull politics to the right on immigration and human rights. If this party succeeds, it will join other far-right parties that have recently experienced rapid growth, including Italy’s Lega Nord and Brothers of Italy, France’s National Rally, Hungary’s Fidesz, Spain’s Vox, and the Sweden Democrats.
The growth of IFP needs to be watched. Indeed that’s why we included it in our 2022 report Irish far-right hate and extremist groups. IFP didn’t run any candidates in 2019, having failed to register as a party, but over the last few years it’s gaining traction, and for the good of democracy and human rights, this must not be ignored.
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