Fine Gael politician claims Leave.EU is 'a threat to democracy' and should not be welcomed into Ireland

Fine Gael politician Neale Richmond in the Dáil Éireann 

Fine Gael politician Neale Richmond in the Dáil Éireann - Credit: Twitter

Fine Gael politician Neale Richmond has claimed Leave.EU is "a threat to democracy" and should not be welcomed into the Republic of Ireland.

Richmond warned members of the Irish parliament that the Brexit lobby group was a "politically subversive organisation" that was allowed "a foothold in our democracy, [and there] will be an absolutely detrimental effect".

Leave.EU, the domain name behind the Leave the EU campaign body funded by British businessman Arron Banks and supported by Nigel Farage, changed addresses to keep its .EU suffix after thousands of domains in the UK were at risk of being "suspended" due to Brexit.

Speaking in the Dail Thursday evening, Richmond accused Leave.EU of having an "association with, quite frankly, dubious characters".

"Their connections directly and indirectly with some of the events that unfolded, really scary events that unfolded in Washington D.C. last week, should not be dismissed as out of hand," he said.

"Whilst the people who run this organisation, who triumph this organisation, seek to mock those who question their authority, seek to dismiss any concerns, and ultimately result to the level of insults that you wouldn't find in a schoolyard.

"We need to take that level of disdain with absolute rigorous scrutiny. 

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"We need to shine a light, we need to put a probe up, because I absolutely believe that this organisation is a threat to our democracy.

"It is a politically subversive organisation that has been allowed to gain a foothold in our democracy, [and there] will be an absolutely detrimental effect.

"We cannot dismiss it lightly, we must, absolutely, provide that scrutiny and I implore the minister and the government to make sure Leave.EU quite simply are not welcome in Ireland."

Earlier this week, Richmond claimed Leave.EU may be breaching EU data protection rules by operating in Ireland

The Irish politicians wrote to the EU's domain registry, EURid, and his own country's data protection commissioner querying if Leave.EU was GDPR compliant.

Writing for The New European, Richmond asked: "How can an organisation located in Bristol with activities concentrated in the UK can retain a .eu domain name when 80,000 other domain names registered to British users have been suspended?

"The attractiveness of retaining this domain and indeed title are obvious to an established online platform like Leave.EU in terms of maintaining its high search engine ranking, presence on social media, political brand and much else. But the UK has left the EU, why should they be able to brass plate their way to retaining that lucrative domain?"

The Fine Gael politician has made it his personal mission to ensure Leave.EU is held to rigorous scrutiny by Irish and EU officials.

"While some commentators may have allowed themselves a wry smile at the irony that an organisation set up to take the UK out of the EU have themselves decided to remain within the bloc," he wrote, "the irony and mild humour should not get in the way of the fact that this requires rigorous scrutiny."

He continued: "One might ask, why pursue these matters, what about free speech and who cares about Brexit anymore, isn’t it done? That might be true but while we cherish free speech, we should always question the activities of these organisations who often hide behind the notion of free speech to engage in utterly odious political behaviour.

"We have sadly seen in Washington DC what the consequences can be and in turn, we must recognise that rigorous scrutiny must always be applied to campaign groups - especially one like Leave.EU."

A spokesman for Leave.EU said they had followed the correct procedures, and described the speech as a "non-event".

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