Yesterday saw the launch of the risible Irexit Freedom Party (IFP), a fringe political grouping opposed to Ireland’s decades-old membership of the European Union. The organisation sees itself very much in the mode of Britain’s hard-right United Kingdom Independence Party – indeed, its new leader, Hermann Kelly, once served as a parliamentary aide to the ex-UKIP MEP turned conspiracy theorist Nigel Farage – unveiling a platform designed to appeal to supposedly unrepresented or disenfranchised conservative and anti-EU voters. However, unlike our troubled neighbour to the east, isolationist and xenophobic sentiment holds very little electoral sway on this island-nation (bar the likes of the pro-British DUP and UUP in the north-east of the country). Among the big three of Irish politics, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, there is almost zero appetite for the kind of policies advocated by the atavistic Conservative Party backbenches in the UK and their reactionary Labour Party peers. Policies which are taking London over the edge of the Brexit cliff to likely economic ruin.
The Irexit Freedom Party makes no bones about cleaving to what is now the far right of contemporary politics in Ireland, quite out of step with the nation’s electoral mainstream. This is reflected in the type of people it has already drawn to its cause, including at least two prominent Irish YouTubers associated with the amorphous alt-right or identitarian movements in Europe and North America (one of whom offered extensive video coverage of the IFP launch). Unsurprisingly then, the IFP’s inaugural gathering was addressed by Nigel Farage, in typically bombastic and mendacious form. However this cynical attempt to sow some paltry seeds of confusion in Irish politics to the benefit of the Brexit lobby in Britain had the unintentional effect of reminding observers that the new party is little more than a UKIP offshoot in Hibernian dress.
No doubt the minuscule band of ideological mavericks will amount to little more than a bad joke, despite the delusional efforts of the normally hibernophobic conservative press in Britain to present the IFP’s establishment as the start of some sort of anti-European uprising on the Emerald Isle. It is, of course, nothing of the sort. Rather, it is merely a weak and shallow echo of the populist and ultranationalist waves sweeping the democratic world in the aftermath of the Great Recession and the observable failure of neoliberal capitalism. Global events which require more left-wing and progressive solutions not more right-wing and regressive problems. Something the vision and composition of the so-called Irexit Freedom Party is anathema to.