Rise of far right in EU elections ‘overstated’, says Trinity College professor

Oireachtas committe told 18 out of 28 states have no far-right representation

Golden Dawn supporters in a rally outside the Greek parliament earlier this month. Greece was the only “bailout” country where the far-right made a breakthrough, the committe heard. EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS

Golden Dawn supporters in a rally outside the Greek parliament earlier this month. Greece was the only “bailout” country where the far-right made a breakthrough, the committe heard. EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS

 

Media coverage of the European elections overstated the emergence of a “broad sweep of far-right parties rising across Europe”, a Trinity College Dublin professor has claimed.

Prof Gail McElroy told the Oireachtas Committee on EU Affairs that impressions of newly elected MEPs taking up positions “at the doors of the European Parliament” had been overstated.

She said while there had been a rise “to some extent in Eurosceptic views and far-right parties”, the fact remained that 18 of the 28 member states had “no far-right representation” in the parliament.

Of interest to Ireland as a “bailout country” was that in only one of the bailout countries did the far right do well and that is “obviously the Golden Dawn in Greece”. Prof McElroy said the numbers of far-right MEPs had risen from about 35 to 52 while the two main parties in the European Parliament “are still the two main parties”. “Will the European Parliament be very different?” she asked. “Possibly not.”

Irish Times journalist Suzanne Lynch told the committee the results might not affect the parliament as significantly as they impact national governments. She instanced the UK, where the rise of Ukip had seen a hardening of the position of the Conservatives.

Nationalistic self

-interest Timmy Dooley TD said it was imperative that the European Council began to think collectively instead of

in terms of “narrow nationalistic benefits”. It was not surprising that EU citizens were turning to Eurosceptic views when their politicians and leaders displayed nationalistic self-interest, he said.

Committee chairman Dominic Hannigan said both pro-European parties of the centre-right and centre-left would continue to control the European Parliament. But he said the elections posed serious questions about Europe’s response to the economic crisis and the future direction of integration.