An Examination of the Radical Right and Populism In Contemporary Ireland

Research Paper by Peter McGuigan



It is almost two months since the European Parliament (EP) elections took place and the dust has finally settled on the hard fought ballot papers of all 751elected MEPs. For most, it was a tough campaign, which in Ireland, saw constituencies enlarged in terms of population and geography, while we had a reduction in one MEP, so as to accommodate the accession of Croatia. Apart from these architectural issues, the political environment was also very different from previous elections as there was a strong increase in anti-EU sentiments across Europe from both the far-right and left. In Ireland, Luke Ming Flanagan and the three Sinn Fein candidates were the standout performers. Incumbents on the other hand, did find the political terrain of the recent election very tough, however many of the old familiar faces such as Brian Crowley, Mairead McGuinness and Marian Harkin managed to get across the line, albeit only just for Harkin. Nevertheless, Ireland's electorate sent a mixture of youth, experience, euro-skeptics and centrist candidates off to Brussels. For some however, namely Fianna Fail (FF) and Labor, the election was a disappointing campaign while for others such as Fine Gael (FG), the election produced a surprisingly good result which saw them once again return four MEPs. Bearing this in mind, how much of the political landscape has changed, if at all, since the previous election? And if it has, what were the factors that influenced the electorate to vote in the manner that they did? Was it a case, that the Irish electorate has had enough with both the austerity policies of Brussels and the trajectory of the EU project or has the electorate decided to send a clear message to the coalition Government that they are unsatisfied with their current performance? In order to answer these questions, this paper will analyze the recent Irish EP election, to see if once again, these elections represent for Europe what the 'midterm' elections offer in the US. Finally, I will conclude by outlining what these elections mean for the future development of the EU.