Subscriber OnlyLetters

Far right, hard right or populist right?

Inherently contestable terms of political identification

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott
The Irish Times - Letters to the Editor.

Sir, – Coverage in your pages of the fallout from the European Parliament elections over the past week raises some terminological questions. Bobby McDonagh (“The only thing the European far right hates more than the centre and the left is each other”, Opinion & Analysis, June 11th) draws a distinction between the “far right” and the “hard right”. He points out that many of the political parties that make up these groups are divided internally and as between each other on key issues like the EU’s response to the war in Ukraine, but does not explain whether it is these divisions that categorises a party as “far right” or “hard right”. He then seems to add further categories of the “trenchant right” and the “populist right”, although these might be just synonyms for either or both of the aforementioned categories.

Meanwhile, Jack Power (“Downplaying the far right’s momentum is an exercise in wishful thinking”, Europe Letter, June 13th) says: “Overall the hard right, from conservatives such as Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy to the far right AfD in Germany, will take more than a fifth of the seats in the next parliament.” This suggests “far right” is a subset of “hard right”. But the headline subsumes “hard right” into “far right” (as did the headline of Bobby McDonagh’s article). Power also includes a category of “conservatives” within the “hard right”, but first, that surely cannot mean all conservatives, and second, I don’t think he means that the “far right” is not (also) conservative, or is there a “liberal hard right”?

It must be difficult for a newspaper featuring a range of columnists and reporters across the political spectrum to achieve uniformity in the use of inherently contestable terms of political identification.

Certainly, I would not like to chair the editorial meeting at which (say) Una Mullally and Michael McDowell are expected to agree on a categorisation of political parties and ideas into “far right”, “hard right” and “conservative”.


Expansive coverage of international politics, including political cultures where the Overton window (the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time) is different to Ireland’s, makes it even more difficult to use labels consistently. But so far, it’s right hard for the reader. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 9.