No free speech for fascists!!
Enough is enough time to resist Libertas and Ganley
Saturday May 02 2009
IT was all a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest-meets-the-Moonies. Up on the stage of the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, Libertas leader Declan Ganley and the party's lead candidate in Holland, Eline van den Broek, were cheerleading the 1,000-strong crowd of largely well-scrubbed young believers, each clutching a rainbow of national flags.
"Anyone here from Poland?" called out the willowy blonde Eline, as a flurry of flags agitated excitedly in one section.
"Anyone from Malta?" asked Declan hopefully and was rewarded with a solo assent from a corner of the hall.
Even Declan caught onto the Eurovision vibe at Libertas's first European convention.
"You called me something akin to Johnny Logan," he joked to Eline, before he led the audience in a quick sing-a-long of 'Le Marseillaise'.
But just like the Eurovision, which is as much about partisan politics as it is about jolly pop, not everyone who turned up onstage was awarded douze points by the audience.
There had been much speculation over who the party were to unveil as their special guest speaker, and Declan took to the stage to give him a royal introduction.
"He is one of my personal heroes, one of the great Europeans of the last century and this century," he declared, "the hero of Gdansk, the hero of Europe, the man who sounded the trumpet blast that eventually brought down the Berlin Wall," he trumpeted, as Lech Walesa materialised beside him.
Almost as soon as the founder of the Solidarity movement began to speak, noisy chants of protest broke out in the hall, and several people stalked out of the room. Outside, Eve Skowronska from Warsaw was hopping mad.
"We don't believe in him anymore. We have some information on him from the past," she said darkly -- "we" being the right-wing party, the League of Polish Families.
But that's the trouble when you bring together so many people from different parts of Europe, and some from the outer fringes of political ideologies, such as Italian candidate Teodoro Buontempo and French charmer Philippe de Villiers, whose right-wing stances make Margaret Thatcher seem like a tofu-eating hippy in comparison.
And although the Libertas platform is what they like to dub 'Euro-optimistic' while being simultaneously anti-Lisbon, not everyone is singing off the same Euro hymn-sheet.
Among the speakers at the convention yesterday morning was Spain's lead candidate Miguel Duran, who is pro-European. He is blind, and for years successfully headed up a powerful organisation representing the blind and disabled.
And Senor Duran won one of the biggest cheers of day during his address, when he announced: "I want to find with Declan a new Europe, a white Europe, not a black Europe."
This went down a storm with a large section of the crowd.
But alas for the enthusiasts, his remark wasn't as black and white at it seemed.
"Blind persons know very well what is the difference between black and white because we always live inside the darkness. So I don't want the next Europe to be dark Europe," he explained, to more muted applause.
But it was Ganley's day, and nothing could dampen his good humour. He began the convention with a press conference alongside some key candidates, including former prime minister of Latvia, Guntars Krasts MEP, who looked disconcertingly like Lurch Addams.
Given that this was a roll-out of a pan-European party with ambitions -- according to Declan -- of nabbing anything up to 100 seats in the June elections, the media crowd was quite modest. Although this may have had something to do with the fact that Libertas chose May Day, a public holiday in Italy, to hold the launch.
But still, the party put on an impressive show. Busloads of evangelical youth sporting Libertas T-shirts arrived in numbers from Eastern European countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic where Libertas is thriving in recent polls.
Ganley exudes almost missionary zeal when he speaks about leading his army of idealists and ideologues and shaking up the political status quo. "We need a new Renaissance in Europe. We need to find that flame, and it's there. It's not something that's unique to Americans. It existed before and it needs to be re-ignited," he said with intensity.
So does he see himself as Europe's answer to Barack Obama. "No. Absolutely not," he replied swiftly. "I'm from Glenamaddy for God's sake," he roared with laughter at the very idea.
Ah yes, but he launched his political march across Europe in the ancient imperial capital where so many emperors once dreamed of conquest.
And when in Rome . . .
- Lise Hand