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15th Apr 2024

Libertas leader to run in European elections

  • Mr Ganley is to run in the North West of Ireland (Photo: EUobserver)

The head of the anti-treaty Libertas group, Declan Ganley, has announced he will run for a seat in the European Parliament in the June elections.

The announcement that he will contest a seat in the North West of Ireland puts an end to months of speculation about whether Mr Ganley, a business man who last year led a successful campaign against the Lisbon treaty in Ireland, would take the ultimate step by personally entering the political arena.

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"We have to wake up in this country and realise that being in favour of Europe does not mean being in favour of everything Brussels wants," Mr Ganley told supporters on Saturday evening (12 March), reports the Irish Times.

Mr Ganley, who during the pre-referendum campaign played on fears about Ireland losing its tax sovereignty under the Lisbon treaty, said his group was against the treaty "not because we opposed Europe, but because we opposed its direction.

"A vote for us is not a vote against Brussels, it is a vote against those in Brussels who ignore you, don't listen to you, and don't care about you."

Since the June No vote, Mr Ganley has been trying to put together a political force at the European level, often saying he wants the upcoming European elections to be a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, which introduces new institutional rules for the bloc, including an EU foreign minister, more powers to the European Parliament and a different decision-making system.

So far, Libertas has had mixed results on its pan-European endeavour, pulling together an assortment of people - often with no political experience - who do not always appear to share the same values.

Its French platform launched last week saw it unite Movement for France (MPF), headed by the right-wing Philippe de Villiers, with the traditionalist Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Tradition (CPNT) parties. Mr Villiers used the launch to cite a litany of complaints against Europe and to call for more protectionism.

The German branch meanwhile lacks major names, something expected to negatively affect its outcome in the traditionally pro-European country.

The Polish Libertas branch is expected to run people under the right-wing Roman Catholic League of Polish Families party, the nationalist Roman Catholic Mlodziez Wszechpolska youth movement, the left-wing farmers' party Self-defence, Stronnictwo Piast, a left-wing peasants' group, and the deregulation-focused UPR party.

Libertas in the UK is headed by Robin Matthews, a former British Soldier. But with Britain already fertile ground for euroscepticism, it faces competition at the urns from the UK Independence Party, advocating withdrawal from the EU and the Conservatives, also against the Lisbon treaty and further EU integration.

Controversies

Its attempts to recruit Swedish Eurosceptic Junilistan party went awry after allegations appeared in Swedish newspapers that Libertas tried to seal the political merger with money.

Soren Wibe, the leader of Junilistan, claimed that almost €1 million was offered by Libertas representatives, although not by Mr Ganley himself.

Meanwhile, Libertas' move to establish the party as a European political party, entitling it to EU funds, ended in fiasco.

Shortly after having made the application to be a pan-European party, requiring representation in seven member states and an adherence to democratic principles, its list of signatories quickly became invalid when two politicians, from Estonia and Bulgaria, withdrew support. Libertas claimed they had been subject to pressue. The matter remains unresolved.

Libertas has also attracted controversy in Ireland. Mr Ganley quickly built up the group into a high-profile and well-organised force, largely considered responsible for the country's No vote.

But there have been several questions about the source of Libertas' funding. Last week, Ireland's ethics watchdog, Standards in Public Office (SIPO), added fuel to the fire by saying that it did not provide it with enough information about its campaign, particularly on donations.

The US angle

It also made specific reference to Rivada Networks LTD, Mr Ganley's communications technology company, which has in the past supplied the US military. Some of Rivada's employees worked for Libertas. The anti-Treaty group says they did so on a voluntary basis but SIPO says it has not received detailed information on the matter, despite a request.

Mr Ganley's opponents claim his anti-Lisbon stance reflects his close connection with US industrial military interests, something he has always rejected.

He says Libertas is being subject to undue scrutiny because of the result of the referendum, which shocked the political establishment in Brussels and sparked muttering about Ireland's ungratefulness.

A second referendum on the treaty is due in autumn, with recent polls suggesting Irish citizens are more inclined to back the document amid the tumultuous economic problems in the country.

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