Fianna Fáil in European alliance with 'racist' party

The Fianna Fáil party in Europe has aligned itself with a controversial European party which has been accused of racism and homophobia


Fianna Fáil MEPs have this week accepted a European party accused of racism and xenophobia in the past into their political group, the Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN).
Fianna Fáil is one of the founding member parties of the Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN), a political alliance, and Fianna Fáil MEP Brian Crowley is co-president of the UEN. This week the UEN accepted the Northern League party from Italy into their affiliation.

The Northern League party leads an anti-immigration campaign in Italy and has been accused of inciting racism and being involved in racist incidents. The leader of the party, Umberto Bossi, has called African immigrants “bingo-bongos” and has said that they should not receive housing paid for by state money.  In an interview, he suggested opening fire on boats of immigrants coming into Italy. After widespread controversy about the remarks, he said he had meant empty boats.

Another member of the Italian party suggested that immigrants be segregated to different train cars. Party member Giancarlo Gentilini, mayor of Triveste at the time, was also accused of inciting racism. He said: “Immigrants from outside the Community? Let's dress them like hares for hunt training” and proposed solving the immigration problem by “loading all undesirables on a boat, shipping them out to the Mediterranean sea... and leaving them to their fate.”

The Northern League denies any racism. One of its MEPs who is now in the UEN with Fianna Fáil, Mario Borghezio, was found guilty of arson in 2005 for setting fire to immigrants' belongings under a bridge in Turin in 2000. He was also fined for beating a Moroccan child in 1993.

The Northern League, founded in 1991, campaigned in the 1990s for an independent north-Italian state called Padania. Following a succesful 2001 general election, the party was part of the Berlusconi coalition government from 2001-2006. This year it announced an agreement with the Movement for Autonomy, a brand-new centrist party from Southern Italy. 26 deputies and 13 senators from the two parties were elected in this year's general election.

Some MEPs formerly from the League of Polish Families also joined the UEN. This party is known for its homophobic attitudes and its youth organisation has been involved in throwing bottles and stones at gay-rights parades in Poland. 

Trevor Sargent, Green party leader, has criticised Fianna Fáil's allegiance with these parties. “Fianna Fáil has joined forces with two of the most odious political parties in Europe. Not content with their existing right-wing, euro-sceptic and fascist colleagues, Bertie Ahern's party representatives in Europe have welcomed into their group a new influx of xenophobes and homophobes. Fianna Fáil's desire for power, perks and privileges knows no bounds. It would seem they have no moral standards at all”.

Fianna Fáil is one of the two main parties behind the UEN and apparently were a driving force behind the additions of this party. The UEN is keen to get additional MEPs into the group as this gives them more power in the European parliament and means they can get more representation on committees.

The UEN is largely nationalist and eurosceptic. Fianna Fáil helped found the UEN political affiliation as most of the other existing European political groups had Fine Gael, Labour or the Progressive Democrats in their grouping.

There are other controversial parties in the UEN. Another Italian party, the Northern Alliance, is a member. This party describes itself as post-fascist and many of the party's members come from the disbanded Italian Social Movement, an ex-neofascist party.

Ireland currently has 16 MEPs, four of whom are members of Fianna Fáil – Liam Aylward, Eoin Ryan, Brian Crowley and Seán Ó Neachtain.

Brian Crowley was not available to comment on the acceptance of the Northern League and the League of Polish Families into the UEN affiliation.