The National Party has been in the spotlight after its members were attacked by anti-fascists at a luxury Co Fermanagh hotel over the weekend – but who exactly are they?
After a group of masked attackers were involved in what police called a “major altercation” at the party’s annual conference at the five-star resort of Lough Erne on Sunday – in which six people were injured and guns were involved – many are listening Northern Ireland just passed the NP for the first time.
The party was founded in 2016 by Justin Barrett who was born in Cork City but later adopted by a family in Co Tipperary.
Mr. Barrett first came to public attention in the 1990s when he led Youth Defense, a hardline anti-abortion group.
He wrote a book called The National Way Forward, which advocated the creation of a “Catholic Republic” that would severely limit immigration and outright ban abortion.
In the early 2000s, he attracted media attention for his participation in European far-right movements, speaking at events in Germany and Italy organized respectively by the National Democratic Party and the Forza Nuova, which were characterized as ultra-nationalist, conservative, and neo-fascist ideologies.
In 2002, Mr Barrett was the main spokesman for the ‘No to Nice’ group, which campaigned for a ‘no’ repeat of the Nice Treaty referendum.
The treaty reformed the institutional structure of the European Union to prepare for its largest enlargement, with 10 new member states in 2004 and two more in 2007.
It was initially rejected by 54% of Irish voters in 2001, but the result was reversed in a subsequent referendum held the following October.
Mr Barrett also campaigned in the run-up to Ireland’s abortion referendum in 2002. He asked people if they wanted to eliminate the threat of suicide as a reason for legal abortion in the state, but was turned down.
Mr Barrett then essentially disappeared from public life until he founded the National Party with Vice-Chairman James Reynolds six years ago.
The group rose to prominence in 2018 when they campaigned strongly for a “no” vote in Ireland’s referendum on abortion. Members have occasionally been spotted in Belfast protesting the relaxation of abortion laws here.
Speaking at a party convention that year, Mr Barrett said the NP would “immediately expel any person who espouses the ideology of Islam” and prioritize immigrants who are “quicker and easier to assimilate”, adding: ” Yes, that means European”.
In another video recorded in 2019, the 51-year-old claimed that despite being Irish-born, she would strip the citizenship of then-Dublin Mayor Hazel Chu if the National Party took power.
The NP became arguably better known for its anti-lockdown, anti-mask and anti-vaccine views during the Covid-19 pandemic, with around 70 people taking part in their 2020 coronavirus restrictions protest outside Dublin’s Parliament buildings .
At the time of writing, the group has amassed almost 10,000 followers on Facebook, 8,000 on Twitter and 2,500 on Instagram.
Despite having no elected representatives and Mr Barrett faring poorly in a Dublin by-election in July 2021, Facebook pages linked to far-right groups in Ireland have gained over 44,000 followers during the Covid-19 pandemic, giving a growing appetite for their ideologies.
The NP’s own website states that he is “best known for advocating a reversal of mass immigration policies of the past 20 years and for insisting that Ireland remain a homeland for the Irish people”.
“The National Party is active in the 32 counties and has held conferences and events across the island of Ireland since its inception.”
It added: “We believe in the Irish people, our right to exist as a nation and our right to defend and claim our homeland. We strive for a united, Irish and free Ireland.”
Before Sunday’s incident, the group attracted public attention in September by unfurling a large banner over a bridge in Cork that read, “Ireland belongs to the Irish.”
Vice Chairman James Reynolds condemned the attack on the party over the weekend, describing the attackers as “red communist thugs” and saying: “These criminals represent the most vicious ideology known to mankind; namely the communist ideology”.
He also paid tribute to the “gallant courage” of some men “who held the line like valiant Spartans”.
Sharing a clip of Mr Reynolds on social media, the NP wrote: “The far left in Ireland feels entitled to beating people with hammers in broad daylight. Why? Because the NGO sector and the media establishment morally sanction it.
“The same people are calling for ‘hate speech’ laws to create a two-tier justice system where they are the leaders.”
Lough Erne Resort released a statement apologizing for the inconvenience caused by the incident, adding: “Please note this was an isolated case and the resort is operating as normal and guests are checking in as usual.”
The NP was also contacted for further comments.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/irish-national-party-who-are-the-group-behind-lough-erne-event-where-large-altercation-broke-out-42144962.html Irish National Party: Who is the group behind Lough Erne event that erupted in ‘major altercation’?