Reports of Le Pen visit prompt angry reaction


There has been angry reaction to reports that controversial extreme right-wing politician Jean Marie Le Pen has been invited to speak at a public event in Dublin in the run-up to the planned referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Media reports today said the UCD Law Society had invited France's National Front leader Le Pen - who is campaigning against the reform treaty - to speak in March or April, ahead of Ireland's vote.

A date for his visit has not yet been set, however, as his availability is uncertain. It was reported today that he has agreed in principle to visit Ireland along with his aide, MEP Bruno Gollnisch, to speak against the Lisbon Treaty.

It would be preferable if Mr Le Pen stayed away as I fear he will only damage the No campaign with his narrow brand of xenophobic politics
Mary Lou McDonald MEP

The reform treaty was negotiated following the rejection of the European Constitution by France and the Netherlands in 2005. Its content draws on much of that constitution but takes the form of a series of amendments to the European treaties.

Le Pen's National Front claims the Lisbon Treaty is the same as the constitutional treaty previously rejected. Those in favour of the ratification of the treaty insist it will overhaul the institutions of the European Union and benefit all member states.

Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Le Pen's politics is "not welcome" in the No campaign against the Lisbon Treaty and that he would "most likely end up helping the Yes campaign.

"While we can not stop Mr Le Pen from coming here and we are all supporters of free speech it would be preferable if Mr Le Pen stayed away as I fear he will only damage the No campaign with his narrow brand of xenophobic politics," she said.

"Le Pen is fighting the Lisbon Treaty on a completely different stance to that of Sinn Féin and other no campaigners in this country."

Ms McDonald said that while people from "all over the EU" could not be stopped from coming to Ireland to campaign on both sides of the treaty debate, it is the Irish people who will ultimately decide whether or not to ratify the treaty.

"If Mr Le Pen really wants a no vote in this referendum then the best thing he can do is to stay away."

Libertas, a lobby group set up by business people specifically to oppose the ratification of the treaty here, said the invitation to Le Pen was "a fairly pathetic attempt by a student society to get publicity for itself on the back of the forthcoming referendum campaign".

Executive director of Libertas Naoise Nunn said: "Libertas has nothing in common with Mr Le Pen, and nor do we believe that there is a democratic organisation in Ireland that shares his noxious views."

"This referendum is a matter for the Irish people, and we alone should be allowed to decide upon it. Mr Le Pen is not welcome as far as we are concerned. We trust the Irish people will see this move by the law society for the self-serving stunt that it is."

The plan to invite Le Pen to speak in Dublin ahead of the treaty referendum was described as an "ill-judged flight of fancy by a student society" by a spokesman for UCD.

A spokesman for the UCD Law Society could not immediately be contacted for comment.

Le Pen, five times an unsuccessful candidate for the French presidency, is currently on trial in France for justification of war crimes and for denying crimes against humanity.

The trial centres around a comment he made in a 2005 interview with right-wing magazine Rivarol, which angered the government, anti-racism organisations and Jewish groups.