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Record number of far-right candidates are running in Friday’s elections. Will any get in?

Anti-immigration candidates have been using increasingly extreme rhetoric in run-up to the vote

These candidates will seek to capitalise on rising support for the far right across Europe and the record levels of asylum seekers arriving in Ireland. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Two years ago Patrice Johnson, who is running in the local elections for the Irish Freedom Party in Co Louth, posted a message on X, formerly Twitter, stating “Hate speech is just free speech that Jews don’t like!”

In other social media posts, she called Minister for Children and Integration Roderic O’Gorman a “groomer” and called for a former asylum seeker to be knocked out and “buried in the mountains”.

In one online conversation last year, she described a black man as a “trigger” and denied a contention by another poster that she was a “trigger lover”.

The Drogheda woman has also endorsed multiple posts supporting conspiracy theories, homophobia and violence.


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The Irish Freedom Party, which was founded in 2018 to campaign for Ireland to leave the EU, is presented by its leader, Hermann Kelly, as a party of the centre right which, he says, “rejects any form of nazism and nuttery”. However, its members have a history of extreme statements.

Alan Fagan, who was selected in February to run for the Drogheda Urban Local Election Area, has shared derogatory comments about gay men as well as conspiracy theories about “Jewish bankers” and climate change. Under a post about a Galway hotel being used as potential accommodation, he wrote “burn, baby, burn”.

Fagan has since been deselected as a candidate by the party. But Kelly is standing by Johnson. “The party will not be throwing candidates to the establishment media wolves each time there is pushback over a hasty ‘like’ to a tweet from years ago,” he said.

Johnson is one of dozens of Irish hard-right candidates running in the local and European elections, which take place on June 7th. The election will see record numbers of candidates running on an anti-immigration platform, either as independents or as members of various micro parties which to date have enjoyed zero success at the Irish ballot box.

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These candidates will seek to capitalise on rising support for the far right across Europe and the record levels of asylum seekers arriving in Ireland. Some opinion polls predict far-right parties across the EU could take up to 25 per cent of the seats in the European Parliament, due in part to growing levels of support from younger people.

In Ireland support is less widespread, with experts speculating that a breakthrough at European level is unlikely. However, that may not be the case at the local level.

“Part of their biggest difficulty is there is so many of them and they are so split among themselves,” says political scientist and UCC senior lecturer Dr Theresa Reidy. Candidates running for Europe have “enormous” electoral quotas to overcome, something even the mainstream parties struggle with, she says.

“But we don’t know a lot about what is happening on the ground with the local elections. There is the possibility that a small number of candidates will be returned there.”

Reidy says next week’s elections “will be a big test for them because in previous elections they’ve only garnered a couple of hundreds of votes here and there”.

Many parties, including the mainstream parties, now promise to take action to reform the immigration system. This includes Sinn Féin which has recently hardened its rhetoric on the issue.

However, candidates on the far right have gone much further, with a small number expressing admiration for Adolf Hitler and spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories borrowed from international far-right movements.

Many describe the current influx of asylum seekers as a deliberate “plantation” of Ireland by shadowy figures, using language which echoes that of the anti-Semitic “great replacement” conspiracy theory.

Philip Dwyer, a self-described citizen journalist who has been a regular feature at anti-immigration demonstrations around the country in recent years, is running in the European elections for Ireland First. One of the newest far-right parties, Ireland First was registered earlier this year and is led by Cork far-right activist Derek Blighe, who is also running for Europe.

Last February, in a post about Holocaust denier David Irving, Dwyer wrote “but Hollywood told me Hitler was the bad guy? Where [sic] they lying to us? Just Askin...”

Dwyer is one of several far-right candidates who have come in conflict with the law in recent years. Last year he was charged at Tallaght District Court with engaging in threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour at a creche. Other candidates are facing weapons possession and public order charges.

He is a former member of the National Party, which is running nine candidates in the local elections and three in the European. Founded in 2016, the National Party is one of the more well-established far-right parties, although it has never returned a candidate.

It made headlines last year when its leader, Justin Barrett, publicly clashed with deputy leader James Reynolds over ownership of a large amount of gold in a Dublin vault. The party split into two factions with both claiming ownership of the National Party name and the gold.

The registrar of political parties refused to grant either faction sole rights to the name, meaning Barrett and Reynolds are both forced to run under the same banner.

Both men have radical anti-immigration positions, but Reynolds is seen by most party members as more palatable to the public and, therefore, more likely to achieve an electoral breakthrough. Barrett, on the other hand, has recently taken to openly praising Hitler and dressing in Nazi-like regalia.

While immigration is the main platform for most of these candidates, some also focus on a perceived threat from the LGBT community and claim it poses a risk to children.

Andy Heasman and Ross Lahive are both running in the European elections for the Irish People, a registered political party which claims to be running another 56 candidates in the local elections. The two men achieved some notoriety last year protesting outside libraries around the country due to the presence of LGBT-friendly books on the shelves. In response, hundreds of people protested in Cork objecting to intimidation and harassment of library workers.

Many of the candidates running this week came to prominence protesting lockdowns and face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic, before pivoting to anti-immigration stances once the pandemic ended and immigration started to increase, says Reidy.

“They are more visible now, partly due to Covid and the anti-lockdown protests. There’s also been efforts to import US-style culture war issues into the political debate which wouldn’t have been here before.”

The shift towards the extreme right can be seen in some of the political literature coming through the letterboxes. The leaflet of one local election candidate running in Leitrim includes a derogatory word for black people and he says he supports “Operation Clontarf”, a proposal which is gaining traction among the Irish far right which would involve the deportation of one million “ethno-culturally incompatible” people from Ireland.

Anti-immigration rhetoric at election time is not new, says Alan Kinsella, a veteran collector of election literature. As far back as the 1930s, politicians in Co Meath were objecting to the settlement of people from the west of Ireland in the county. “Meath wants no more migrants,” one Fine Gael poster read.

The 1971 referendum on joining the Common Market saw claims that it would mean an influx of large numbers of black UK citizens into Ireland. Similarly false claims spread in the early 2000s in the period before the referendum which revoked automatic citizenship for people born in Ireland, he says.

“It’s always been a theme but nothing like on the level it is now. It’s much more visible and much more direct,” says Kinsella.