Ireland First: Inside the group chat of Ireland’s latest far-right political party

No far-right party has ever returned a councillor or TD in an election before

Last month Iris Oifigiúil, the official gazette for the Government, featured a short notice from the Oireachtas Registrar of Political Parties.

“I hereby give notice that I propose to approve the application for registration in the Register of Political Parties of Ireland First,” the official declared, formally bringing into being the country’s latest far-right political party.

The announcement meant that Ireland First, which gives its address as Irishtown, Tullaghan, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, had met the conditions of having 300 signed-up members, a basic constitution and a name that is not “obscene or offensive” although its registration is being challenged by the Hope and Courage Collective, formerly known as the Far Right Observatory, which has lodged an appeal with Art O’Leary, the Registrar of Political Parties at the Electoral Commission.

The new party is the vehicle of Derek Blighe, who has become one of the most prominent anti-immigration campaigners in the country. In the past year the Corkman, who once lived in Canada as an immigrant, has travelled the country organising protests against asylum seeker and refugee accommodation, making videos for his growing number of followers and appealing for donations for his cause.


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Now Blighe, along with his brother Tommy Murphy, is seeking to channel that exposure into electoral success on the national stage.

Soon after applying for official status, Ireland First sent an email to its members stating that “over the next few months, we will be looking for candidates across Ireland”. Specific email addresses were set up for those wishing to run in local elections and for those seeking Dáil office.

“Note, it is advisable to run in local elections, even if you plan or would like to represent Ireland First at State level,” advised party secretary Sarah Herraty in one email.

Members were also provided with a pack of documents to hand out to others. These included a leaflet warning of a global “pandemic treaty” which will allow the World Health Organisation to take over Ireland and a copy of the 2015 version of the Constitution (which includes the marriage equality amendment but omits the repeal of the Eighth Amendment on abortion).

At first glance many of the policies of Ireland First seem conservative rather than extreme. For example, immigration and refugees should be permitted but in a controlled manner, it states. It says it is not anti-LGBT or anti-trans but that there should be a limit on how these issues are taught in schools.

“We are NOT anti-immigration!” one policy document states. “As humans, it is our moral obligation to help those in need fleeing war.”

The party wants an “ordinary referendum” – a public vote on a non-constitutional issue on the issue of migration. It stresses “this has nothing to do with prejudice”.

However, a private, invite-only Ireland First Telegram group paints a much darker picture of the party’s priorities.

The Irish Times reviewed thousands of the group’s messages from the past month, many of which display overt racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and, sometimes, calls for violence. There is no evidence of any of these views attracting sanction or criticism from the party’s leadership, who are also active in the group chat.

Much of the discourse among the 142 members of the group concerns strategy as well as the organisation of protests, meetings and the occasional social event. Members discuss plans to get key words trending on social media and to influence the conversation around the far right.

One member suggests a plan for a viral messaging campaign to promote the claim that, just like leprechauns and four-leaf clovers, the idea of an Irish far-right is a myth. “We could take all the power out of their spell words and folks ... make no mistake, words like far right are literal spells.”

Another woman criticised singer Christy Moore for performing at a recent antiracism event and described her attempts to contact actor Brendan Gleeson through Instagram to ask him to march with Ireland First members. “Told him I could feed him but couldn’t afford a fee, etc etc.”

Gleeson does not have an Instagram account. He was publicly applauded by the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees for being one of “the incredible artists” who had worn pro-refugees ribbons at the recent Bafta awards in London: “Your support for refugees and displaced people everywhere means the world,” said the UN body.

The 160 c**ts need to be dragged out of the Dáil

—  Member of the private Ireland First Telegram group, in reference to TDs

Another on the private Ireland First Telegram group discussed the value of getting the farming community on board with their movement: “The Irish farmers could bring down the Government.”

The private setting of the group means members are happy to speak freely. Asylum seekers are referred to as “scumbags” and Ukrainian refugees as “invading f**kers”.

Some members spoke out against the visit of far-right extremist Tommy Robinson to Ireland last month and accused him of splintering the anti-immigration movement here. “Next we make it clear the Jew is not wanted,” a user said in reference to Robinson, who is not Jewish but has publicly supported Israel.

One post shared in the group bemoans the number of black models featured in a German fashion magazine and states: “Hitler did nothing wrong.”

Conspiracies about Covid abound – one member wondered if 77-year-old football commentator John Motson was “jabbed” before his death last month. Hatred of the Government parties is another consistent theme. Another member made pejorative remarks about Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s race and sexuality.

But the most reviled party is Sinn Féin. “There’s more hatred towards them than all the others put together!” said a member called SJD.

Movement needs guns and men and all the protests in the world are not going to save us

—  Member of the private Ireland First Telegram group

Some members are also not above speaking in explicitly violent terms. “The 160 c**ts need to be dragged out of the Dáil,” posted one in reference to TDs.

“Wonder what colour will be pouring out the brains when they get a bullet in it?” asked a member who was upset about a Dublin bridge being lit up in Ukrainian colours. Another said a recent antiracism march should have been “carpet bombed”.

Another member said the movement “needs guns and men” and that “all the protests in the world are not going to save us”.

A short time later a user told fellow members: “The Irish were good at partizan (sic) war. If can’t win with protests think about partisan war.”

Whether these sentiments reflect the majority opinion of the party is not clear. Publicly, the Blighe brothers are focusing on making electoral gains and establishing Ireland First as a reasonable conservative party in favour of limits on immigration.

In making immigration its defining issue, Ireland First, which did not respond to queries for this article, joins the ranks of other registered far-right parties like the National Party and the Irish Freedom Party, neither of which has ever returned a candidate at local or national level.

It is also not clear how sophisticated Ireland First’s electoral strategy is. In one email prospective candidates are advised the local elections are in May 2023 and that national elections are in 2024. (The next local elections are not scheduled until 2024 while the current Dáil term extends to March 2025.)

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times