Barrett admits he attended far-right meeting

 

Mr Justin Barrett of the No to Nice campaign has confirmed that he attended an event organised by Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) but he denies any links with the organisation.

Mr Barrett, who earlier this week declined to confirm or deny to The Irish Times his attendance at the meeting in the Bavarian city of Passau in May 2000, yesterday admitted he attended the conference, as well as an estimated two other events linked to the NPD.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio's News at One, he said: "I attended the conference at their invitation . . . I don't speak German. So I don't know what the proceedings are other than my own speech when I make one and the translation of it. I can't comment on who the other speakers were."

Asked how many events organised by the NPD had he attended, he replied: "I understand this Young Democrats group is also part of the National Democrats, which I wouldn't previously have known. So I imagine that I have spoken to a number of meetings. I think three in total."

Despite this, he denied he was a "fellow traveller" of the NPD, saying "if we are getting into a situation where simply speaking to somebody is therefore an indication that you somehow share their views or endorse their views then we are getting into a situation which would be extremely dangerous."

The Irish Times reported yesterday that Mr Barrett, representing the anti-abortion group Youth Defence, was an honorary guest at the Passau meeting. Other guests were an Italian right-wing extremist and a former Nazi SS officer, who received a standing ovation.

Mr Barrett said the claim by the NPD deputy leader, Mr Holger Apfel, that it had been in contact with Youth Defence since 1996 was "plainly untrue".

"Our links are no links at all. The story originates from the fact that I was invited to speak on the pro-life issue by an organisation. I am invited to by many organisations around the world both on the Continent and in the United States and Canada because of my involvement in the pro-life movement.

"Apparently, one of the meetings that I went to was a meeting of this organisation in Germany called the National Democrats. Now the name to me certainly didn't suggest any far-right links, any reason why I shouldn't attend such a meeting. So I attended the meeting to speak on the pro-life issue and that is all. That's all I know about them. I don't know what their ideology is."

He added: "At no time while I was there did anyone make to me, in English, at least, any anti-Semitic remarks, racist remarks, nasty remarks of any description."

Asked would he attend an NPD event again, he replied: "Certainly not. If they are what The Irish Times say they are, if I'd known in advance and I don't want to sound like the Taoiseach on this matter, but if I'd known in advance what they are supposed to believe in - and I take the Irish Times report on the face of it - that they do believe in the things they say they do, then I wouldn't have attended in the first place. I certainly won't be attending again."

Claiming to be the victim of a "smear campaign", Mr Barrett said: "I hold no extremist views and I think what's being engaged in is on the Yes campaign side - and I think it's very much coming from there - is an attempt on very, very poor ground indeed to try and suggest a link where no such link exists."

Speaking earlier on LMFM, Mr Barrett pointed the finger of blame at Fianna Fáil, saying the Minister of State for Europe, Mr Dick Roche, had indicated he was going to attack the personalities of Mr Barrett and fellow No campaigner Mr Anthony Coughlan.

"We know, speaking to people out there, this is the typical kind of gutter smear that was present on the last occasion," he said.

It "originates from a strategy that P.J. Mara is famous for," Mr Barrett said.