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European People's Party

Fine Gael condemns political violence after EU partners refused to sign letter denouncing far right

The European People’s Party refused to sign the joint declaration, which condemned ‘hate speech by far right parties across all Member States’.

FINE GAEL HAS said it condemns any form of “political violence, hate speech or hate crime”, after its European Parliament partner group refused to sign a declaration condemning far-right attacks on politicians. 

The declaration, titled In Defence of Democracy, was initiated by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and signed by five of the main political parties in the European Parliament, including Renew, the Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA) and The Left.

However, the European People’s Party (EPP) did not sign it. 

Shared on Wednesday, the declaration condemns the “brutal attack” against MEP Matthias Ecke, a candidate for the German Social Democrats (SPD) who was assaulted by a group of men while putting up campaign posters in Dresden. 

It also condemns an attack on Kai Gehring, a Green Party politician in Germany, who was assaulted along with a colleague in Essen. 

The president of the EPP, Manfred Weber, condemned the attacks on the politicians in a statement on X at the time. 

The declaration also condemns “acts of violence by far right supporters in Stockholm, attacks against party headquarters in Spain and the targeting of politicians’ homes in Belgium”.

“We strongly condemn the constantly growing cases of harassment, vandalism, spread of disinformation, defamation and hate speech by far right parties across all Member States to threaten politicians, activists, journalists and European citizens every day,” it reads. 

There have been a number of incidents in Ireland in recent months where people have gathered outside politician’s homes. Most recently, this took place outside the homes of Taoiseach Simon Harris and Immigration Minister Roderic O’Gorman.

Last month, a death threat was graffitied near the home of Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy. Also last month, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin was approached by a man and filmed while waiting at a bus stop in Dublin. 

The declaration calls on European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and all democratic European parties “to firmly reject any normalisation, cooperation or alliance with the far-right and radical parties”.

“We expect them to include this formally and unequivocally in their election manifestos and party declarations.”

An EPP spokesperson told Euronews earlier this week that they would not sign the declaration because it “aims to support the political campaign of one particular group”. 

Green Party MEP for Dublin Ciarán Cuffe said it is “worrying” that Fine Gael’s political grouping in Europe declined to sign the statement.

“As some of their member parties strike deals with the far-right, it is important that EPP members show their commitment to defending democracy and rejecting violence,” Cuffe said in a statement.

“I am calling on all of Ireland’s candidates for the forthcoming European Elections, including members of Fine Gael, to state their support for the ‘In Defence of Democracy’ declaration.”

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for the EPP said:

“The EPP Group proposed reasonable changes to the letter in to achieve cross-party consensus on a more balanced text, such as including adding a paragraph to state that the group of parties would only work with parties that are pro-Ukraine, pro-Nato and pro-rule of law.

“The EPP’s proposed changes to the letter were rejected.”

EPP President Manfred Weber said: “Our principles are clear: we only cooperate with parties that are pro-European, pro-Ukrainian and pro-rule of law.”

The EPP spokesperson also pointed to a vote in January where the European Parliament called for hate crime and hate speech to be criminalised across the EU.

“The EPP Group strongly supported that call. All five Fine Gael MEPs voted in favour. However, not all Irish MEPs voted in favour of that report,” the spokesperson said.

Separately, a spokesperson for Fine Gael told The Journal: “Fine Gael wholly condemns of any form of political violence, hate speech or hate crime.

“We understand that the letter The Journal refers to is something that was discussed and negotiated on by some of the political groups in the European Parliament.

“The EPP Group proposed reasonable changes to the letter, which Fine Gael supported. The EPP’s proposed changes to the letter were rejected.”

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