Nigel Farage spots ‘gap’ in Irish political market for Irexit party

Former Ukip leader calls on anti-EU Irish to organise and fight 2019 European elections

Leading Brexit supporter and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage brought his rail-against-Brussels sentiment to Dublin as a keynote speaker at a conference to promote “Irexit” in front of a fired-up audience of about 600 people. Video: Simon Carswell

 

Leading Brexit supporter Nigel Farage, the former UK Independence Party (Ukip) leader, had said there is “a gap in the political market” in Ireland for a party to push for an Irish exit from the European Union.

The politician brought his anti-establishment, rail-against-Brussels sentiment to Dublin as a keynote speaker at a conference to promote “Irexit” in front of a fired-up audience of about 600 people.

In an at-times fiery 15-minute address at the RDS, the British MEP urged anti-EU Irish voters to organise to contest the European Parliament elections in June 2019.

He argued that the “political media”, corporate interests and Irish civil servants working in the European Commission had created a perception that most Irish people supported the EU.

“I don’t think Ireland is a pro-EU country,” Mr Farage told the Irexit: Free to Prosper conference, organised by the Ukip-led Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy grouping in the EU parliament.

‘Very curious exception’

Since the Brexit vote, eurosceptic parties had sprung up across Europe challenging EU immigration policies, he said, but there had been “one very curious exception” in Ireland.

He criticised Ireland’s membership of the euro as “a currency that frankly you are ill-suited for”, and questioned the country’s political leadership after the “humiliating” experience of “being run by the troika” after the economic crash, along with the merits of being a net contributor to the EU budget.

It is incumbent now upon you to organise, to mobilise, and put up candidates and fight those European elections in just 15 months

“What on Earth is going on in the politics of this country?” he asked the crowd.

Setting out his anti-establishment case, Mr Farage claimed there were “a very large number of men and women” in Ireland who “do not have the democratic representation they deserve”.

“It is incumbent now upon you to organise, to mobilise, and put up candidates and fight those European elections in just 15 months,” Nigel Farage told an Irexit conference in Dublin. Photograph: Bryan Meade
“It is incumbent now upon you to organise, to mobilise, and put up candidates and fight those European elections in just 15 months,” Nigel Farage told an Irexit conference in Dublin. Photograph: Bryan Meade

“It is incumbent now upon you to organise, to mobilise, and put up candidates and fight those European elections in just 15 months,” he told the conference.

Mr Farage was among a roster of speakers that questioned the country’s continued EU membership, particularly after Brexit; the absence of a plurality of political opinion in Ireland, and the inability to discuss issues such as immigration and border controls without being branded xenophobic.

‘Utter folly’

Trinity College Dublin academic Anthony Coughlan, a long-time critic of EU membership, said it would be “utter folly” for the country to remain in the bloc after Brexit.

“We can take back control of our laws, our borders, our currency, our fisheries, our foreign policy, and have a meaningful neutrality,” he said.

Karen Devine, a lecturer on EU law at DCU, argued the loss of hundreds of billions of euro in fishing stocks due to EU membership and the costly EU-imposed fiscal measures in the bank bailouts were reasons why “Irexit” should be comprehensively studied.

In order to remove them [elected leaders] we have to have a conversation which means we have to remove the media because they will not permit us to have a conversation

“It is not only intellectually lazy not to do so. It is patently irrational… in the face of failed democracy at the EU level and the number of treasonous decisions by a self-interested governing elite,” she said.

Economist Cormac Lucey warned that yielding additional powers over Irish corporate taxation to Brussels would “effectively end Ireland’s status as an independent state”.

The biggest cheer of the four-hour conference – after Mr Farage’s appearance on stage – was in response to criticism from writer and former journalist John Waters when he called for the removal of Ireland’s political leaders and the media.

“In order to remove them [elected leaders] we have to have a conversation which means we have to remove the media because they will not permit us to have a conversation,” he said.

‘Fright of its life’

In a public interview with Mr Waters after his address, Mr Farage said that if an anti-EU party contested the 2019 European elections, it would “give the establishment the fright of its life”.

Hermann Kelly, the spokesman for Mr Farage’s EFDD grouping, said he hoped the turnout at the conference would spur a new political movement to run candidates in those elections and beyond.

“That is just the start,” he told The Irish Times.

Mr Waters told this newspaper he was not a politician, but if nobody else stepped forward as a candidate for the “alternative voice” not heard in Irish politics, but represented at the conference, he would.

“I would prefer that this cup would pass on to somebody else, but at the end of the day you can’t keep talking about the state of our country unless you are prepared to go the distance,” he said.

“If there is nobody else, I would certainly do it.”