Thursday, May 28, 2009

France 24 on Libertas and Declan Ganley's links with notorious anti-Semites

Anti-Semitic links - 20/05/2009
Libertas, Lech and some odd bedfellows
By Fiachra Gibbons/RFI

Less than a week after it launched as the first truly Europe-wide party, the new right-wing alliance Libertas is already looking shaky amid a flurry of accusations about links with notorious anti-Semites, questionable funding methods and even an allegation that it is part of a Russian plot to destabilise the EU.

The movement, led by Declan Ganley - the controversial Irish businessman behind the No campaign that defeated a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland last year - wants similar votes across Europe on all new treaties. With at least 200 Libertas candidates already signed up to stand in 23 countries, Ganley pulled off a major coup in persuading the legendary Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa to kick off their election campaign in Rome. Walesa seemed to wholeheartedly throw his weight behind the new party, telling its candidates that "I am with you always". His endorsement of Declan Ganley and the new party could hardly be more fullsome, saying Libertas and its leader were a "a force for good in the world" who had the potential to "change Europe for the better".

But back in Poland, where Libertas has been headed by the League of Polish Families, who advocate the "elimination of Jewish influence" from Polish life and business, Walesa has been pilloried. His former comrades in the ruling Civic Platform Party, for which his son is standing in June, were quick to turn on him, with one prominent commentator claiming Walesa was acting as a Russian spy and a stooge of the Kremlin.

Having admitted that he was paid handsomely for the address in Rome, Walesa said he still supports his old party colleagues, although he would like some Libertas candidates to enter the European Parliament. "It's better when radicals follow some rules," he claims.

It has also emerged that Libertas's campaign in Poland is being funded with loans Ganley has personally undertaken to underwrite, getting through a loophole in Polish law over foreign electoral funding. But Libertas's French arm, led by the royalist former presidental candidate Philippe de Villiers, denies the practice is widespread and told RFI they will not be taking a centime from Ganley, since such funding would be illegal in France.

The inclusion of De Villiers, who is doggedly anti-Europe, anti-Nato, and against Turkey's entry into the EU, also points to some glaring inconsistencies about policy within Libertas. Ganley claims he is not against Europe, but just wants to reform it, and make it more democratically accountable. His is also pro-Nato and has said he supports Turkey's entry.

Despite these setbacks, Ganley says Libertas support across the continent has rocketed on the back of its simple message that "Brussels is taking away your freedom without giving you a vote". A huge online petition and advertising campaign , that includes banner adverts on Google's email facility, gmail, has made the party's site the most visited of any in the campaign, with "millions of hits", he says.

Ganley, however, remains an elusive and divisive figure. In Ireland, where he spent a part of his teenage years after being born to Irish parents near London, the former teaboy has been dubbed Doctor No, and The International Man of Mystery. His critics claim he has never given a satisfactory explanation about how he built his fortune, which now rests on contracts to supply communications equipment to the US military.

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