The Other Side of the Anti-EU Coin: Justin Barrett on Tour
Friday March 19, 2004 14:29 by Indymedia Ireland Editorial Group
Outed Fascist tours small-town Ireland with ex-Provo supporting cast & anti- EU message
Here at Indymedia, we like to encourage a DIY attitude. The slogan "Be the media" would be a reasonable distillation of our ethos. As such, we've picked out this particular report as a good example of someone getting out there and doing it themselves. The writer gives the impression of one who was driven by a sense of curiousity and took the time to write a lively and descriptive report of a meeting he attended.
No reporter is completely objective in their writing and this particular reporter clarifies his subjectiveness by clearly stating from the outset his perspective and reason for being there. Nevertheless, he proceeds to give a detailed account of the meeting and the views and opinions expressed by the speakers.
Regular readers may not like the content of the article. They may prefer that Mr. Barrett did not get any publicity for his views (on Indymedia or other media) but this article still qualifies as a fine piece of original reporting. Indymedia as a quality source of original news depends on the willingness of people to do the same.
Original report by Alois Vincenzo
With just a few hours' notice of the Wexford stop on Justin Barrett's 'Public Information Tour', I had had little time to prepare slurs or even to reacquaint myself with the politics of Ireland's most notorious far-right wannabe. I arrived at the talk venue fearing raised eyebrows at what I supposed might seem my lefty youth appearance; unshaven and bedraggled from my day's work I sauntered into the fashionable quay-side hotel foyer, to be met by the derisive chuckle of the young worker on the desk when I enquired which way to the Barrett talk. Embarassing but reassuring.
Once I knew where I was headed, I corrected the apologetic air I had adopted for the benefit of the porter and got into character, ready to size up Barrett's set-up and evaluate my prospects for the evening: whether to make a scene, to politely challenge Barrett over Q & A ,or to keep my gob shut.
After taking my seat and my Justin propaganda (including a touching paean to the Irish language and its criminal neglect in the pantheon of official operational EU languages), I experienced the room slowly fill up around me, largely with the kind of aged misfits that fall prey to fringe ultra-conservative political practicioners.
I had anticipated there might be some genuine punters there, justifiably pissed off with the fallout of the neoliberal project that EU heads are working to implement. This supposition on my part had been the principal reason for my attending the meeting, believing that decent and disgruntled people deserved to hear from a sane outsider that they had every right to distrust the EU and its institutions, but that playing into the hands of Barrett and the likes was a bad idea.
Perhaps, in light of the revelations aired in the mainstream media not so long ago about Barrett, it was naiive on my part to imagine innocent punters might just wander along to one of his meetings. This began to dawn on me as I struggled to imagine any of the old Blueshirts around me proving responsive to libertarian critiques of Fortress Europe. Oh well.
When the attendance began to ebb around the twenty mark, the silver-haired chair ushered on the support speaker for the event, an ex-Provo from East Tyrone turned 'Irish Catholic' cover boy, Gerry McGeough. Clearly proud to have a gunman of such 'colourful' republican credentials at their podium, Justin and his chair sat back smugly and let Gerry, with his boring UTV mid-Ulster features let rip on a rosary bead nationalist tirade more unsettling than anything Justin himself would utter that night.
The dregs of an audience that populated the conference room were not on the whole the note-taking type, and accordingly I likewise refrained, figuring I already stuck out enough without inviting a Bill Hicks-style scenario on myself ('What you readin' for? What you writin' for?). As such this reporter will not attempt to reproduce in any thorough fashion the content of McGeough, or indeed Barrett's, spoutings.
Suffice to say that the Northerner expounded on the marriage of Catholic and patriotic values that are key to Ireland's dignity, and that have spearheaded the nation's quest for freedom from the British colonial jackboot since 1169. In McGeough's world view these values now face down the no doubt vaguely afiliated twin evils of post-Schmeltic Tiger vice and European bureaucatic imperialism. The fellow's a teacher.
With the crowd softened up by McGeough's stirring evocations of comely maidens and men with pikes, Barrett's talk drew less on romantic nationalist imagery in favour of a considered right-wing conservative appraisal of the perceived erosion of national sovereignty ready to be served up in the form of the EU Constitution. No qualms here about privatisation or harsh immigration policy; only alarm bells warning of an imminent challenge to the very institution of the nation-state in Europe. Nothing rankles more with Justin than the prospect of shared sovereignty throughout the Union.
'We are told that what we will lose as a nation in terms of sovereignty, we will in turn gain, in the form of a shared European sovereignty..
but I, as an Irishman, do not want any measure of sovereignty over Warsaw or the Ardennes; I wish exclusively for sovereignty over my own nation!'
Proceeding on at length about the threat to the nation-state encapsulated in proposals for the Constitution, Barrett stopped short of making inflammatory references to the host of Eastern European peoples set to accede to the rank of second-class EU citizenship on May 1st. What reference he did make to these peoples fell more, if anything, on the side of mild sympathy. In fact, there was little evidence on display at the meeting of deep or pathological xenophobia toward the accession countries.
Nonetheless, the ideological thrust of the meeting would leave any conscientous observer disturbed. As I lack notes and quotes from the meeting, I refer to the Irish Catholic feature on the support speaker, Gerry McGeough. Perhaps the sentiments expressed therein should serve as an adequate taster for what the ex-Ra man, a character who left the SF Ard-Comhairle because it was too PC, and the Youth Defencer are cooking up:
'We need to renew this country not only in terms of culture and nationalism but also in faith. It is time for a new spiritual and cultural revival..
You would never get a leader of Sinn Fein condemning abortion, homosexual 'marriage' or anything of that nature..
Looking around there is no political grouping willing to take a stance against that. I sense there is a feeling of disenfranchisement out there among a large section of Irish society who are not being represented..
I feel people are crying out for a new political movement which will represent their views.'
Barrett was well prepared for my charges of hyper-nationalism and far-right leanings when I challenged him over Q & A. The less than credible excuse was trotted out that he had frequented and addressed events of far-right groupings on the continent, such as those of the NDP in Germany, in his capacity as pro-life ambassador, all done in a spirit of innocent outreach. Presumably, that is, in the spirit that one would address the remnants of the Khmer Rouge on the finer points of the pro-choice argument. And presumably done in the belief that the boys doing the straight-arm salute had a thing for 1950's Hollywood Roman epics.
It is undeniable that those who turned up to the meeting hardly looked like the kind to get out on the streets for their ideals. And judging by the age profile, it's questionable whether most of the attendees' offspring would be up to it either. But the very fact that the likes of Barrett can pull twenty plus bodies to a meeting in an average-sized Irish town must raise questions. I am unsure whether a Grassroots anti-EU 'Public Information Tour' would achieve the same level of interest.
Whatever, the presence of right-wing tricksters like Barrett and co. plying their propaganda on the sleepy streets of small-town Ireland underlines, if nothing else, the need for progressive groups to put forward their messages in a manner that is clear, accessible, unambiguous and pervasive. Nowhere does this guideline apply more than in the context of forthcoming confrontations with Ireland's EU presidency, a campaign of great importance, but nagged by the vagueness that marks the Union's image and the indifference it inspires in the hearts and minds of many ordinary people.
See www.justinbarrett.org for details on ongoing tour etc.