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Tuesday 27 June 2017

Campaigners on both sides of treaty lash out at Barrett

Kathy Donaghy

THE Pro-Life Campaign yesterday attacked No to Nice and Youth Defence campaigner Justin Barrett for attending conferences of an organisation with neo-Nazi links.

John Smyth, spokesman for the Pro-Life Campaign, whose members include former senator Des Hanafin and Trinity law professor William Binchy, lashed out at Mr Barrett, saying no amount of spin or evasion could explain away the seriousness of attending such gatherings.

Mr Barrett, who has become the face of the No to Nice campaign, attended two conferences and spoke at an event organised by Germany's extreme right-wing National Democratic Party (NDP).

The German authorities have described the NDP as having "Nazi characteristics". Two years ago he attended an NDP rally in Passau in Bavaria as a representative of Youth De- fence.

Mr Barrett has admitted attending the conferences and said it was probable that he addressed them but denied he had any links with the organisation.

However, Mr Smyth said it was a nonsense to contend that speaking at a neo-fascist rally "somehow serves the interest of building a more caring pro-life culture or the broader human rights agenda which he claims to espouse".

Fianna Fail TD Dick Roche, co-director of the party's campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum next Saturday, blasted Mr Barrett for saying he did not know the people at the Passau rally were neo-Nazis.

The Alliance Against Nice campaign moved to disassociate itself from Mr Barrett.

Socialist TD Joe Higgins said Mr Barrett's No to Nice group had never been invited to join his alliance and he accused media groups of attempting to smear the entire anti-treaty campaign.

He claimed the name of Barrett's group was misleading, giving the impression that it is an umbrella organisation for all anti-Nice campaigners, and said the alliance, supported by 15 TDs, is "a hundred times more representative".

The Irish Green Party Supporters Group yesterday called on the Greens to reconsider their campaign for a No vote in the light of the Barrett revelations.

Gerry Claffey, joint co-ordinator of the group, said reports of Mr Barrett's affiliations were very worrying.

Mr Claffey asked if the Green Party leadership believed a No vote would be interpreted as a vote in favour of European democracy and enlargement, in light of the revelations emerging about other campaigners on the No side.

Mr Barrett claimed ignorance of the extreme right-wing views of the NDP. As he did not speak German, he did not know what the proceedings at the conference were about.

"I don't want to sound like the Taoiseach on this matter but if I had known in advance what they are supposed to believe in, then I wouldn't have attended in the first place," Mr Barrett said.

"To clarify in a straight and simple manner, our links are no links at all. I was invited to speak on the pro-life issue by an organisation. I am invited by many organisations. Apparently, one of the meetings I went to was a meeting of this organisation in Germany called the National Democrats. Now the name, to me, certainly didn't suggest any far-right links or any reason why I shouldn't attend such a meeting," he said.

"So I attended the meeting to speak on the pro-life issue and that is all, and that's all I know about them." He said while he was at the meetings he had not heard any anti-semitic, racist or Nazi remarks.

Mr Barrett said he be- lieved he had spoken to a number of such gatherings, as the Young Democrat Group was also part of the NDP in Germany.

He denied the organisation he is most closely associated with, Youth Defence, had been in contact with German extremists since 1996. "That's just plainly untrue."

Mr Barrett said he would not be attending any meeting with the German party again.

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