During the 1990s, Justin Barrett and Michael Quinn were leading members of the militant anti-abortion group Youth Defence.
They were arrested together, along with six other Youth Defence associates, during a violent picket in May 1998 outside the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin.
Both men, while retaining links with Youth Defence, went onto become dedicated and committed far-right activists.
Though the two have dropped out of public activity, it is still useful to trace their political careers. Also pose the question as to why such a number of leading Youth Defence members have become active in right-wing politics ranging from Catholic Irish Nationalism to White Power neo-Fascism.
This is especially ironic in the wake of the recent video from Youth Defence (23 September 2016) that links the slogan and campaign to ‘Repeal the 8th Amendment’ to slavery, the Holocaust and segregation in the United States.
Justin Barrett was born in Cork city in 1971. He was fostered when he was two and adopted at the age of five by the Slevin family in Milford, Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary.
As The Irish Times (5 October 2002) explained:
Barrett was his mother’s family name and the one on his birth certificate, but his adoptive family’s name was Slevin, so for years he was known as “Barrett Slevin”, as though Barrett were a Christian name. He eventually opted for Barrett, and dropped the Slevin.
Barrett attended Borrisokane vocational school and later Athlone Regional Technical College (RTC), where he took a diploma in business studies. He went on to study accountancy but has only took about half of the required examinations.
In his late teens, he became active with Family Solidarity, a group opposed to abortion, contraception, gay rights and divorce.
From May 1987, he began writing letters on topical political issues to The Nenagh Guardian. The following year, he got into a mud-slinging match with the Nenagh Nicaraguan Support Group in the letters page of the newspaper.
His letter to the newspaper (23 April 1988), aged just 17, derides “secular humanism” and describes the government of Ronald Regan as a “grand statemanship”. Describing himself as a “humblest representative of the Right”, he signs off with the slogan “We will bury Communism!”.
In this period, he joined Young Fine Gael and was listed as the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Borrisokane branch in The Nenagh Guardian (16 March 1991).
As a third-level student in Athlone RTC in 1992, he contested the election for the Presidency of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) but dropped out of the race halfway through due to lack of support.
Barrett first became involved with Youth Defence in June 1992 during the Mastricht referendum when he distributed the group’s leaflets calling for a ‘No’ vote in Athlone.
In October 1994, Barrett and eight other members of Youth Defence were arrested at a picket outside constituency office of Labour TD Brendan Howlin in Wexford. Seven of the protestors had travelled from Dublin while Justin and his future wife Bernadette travelled from Galway.
- Justin Slevin, River Street, Ballinsaloe, Galway
- his future wife Bernadatte Carolll, Latoon, Caltra, Ballinsaloe, Galway
- Niamh Nic Mhathuana, 57 Barton Road East, Churchtown,
- her sister Una Nic Mhathuana, ” ” “
- their brother Seamus MacMathuna, ” ” “
- Ciara Ní Aodáin, 137 Gracepark Heights, Drumcondra, D9
- her mother Deirdre Hayden, 132 Gracepark Heights, Drumcondra, D9
- Peter Murphy, 34 Pineview Rise, Tallaght, D24
- John Heaney, 33 Bawnville Road, Tallaght, D24
They were all fined £75 and bound to keep the peace for 12 months.
A year later, these charges were dismissed and Circuit Court Judge Sean O’Leary removed the District Court conventions.
During the 1995 Divorce Referendum, Barrett helped formed Youth Against Divorce which was a front organisation for Youth Defence.
He was quoted at the time in the newspapers as saying:
If the referendum is passed, in 20 years time, at the outside, Ireland will be choking on this liberal agenda, this divorce culture.
As a representative of Youth Defence, he spoke with Peter Scully of Family and Life at a special pre-election public meeting in Tralee as advertised in The Kerryman (25 April 1997).
In The Irish Times (28 March 1998), he was listed as PRO of Youth Defence and warned of “civil unrest” if the Government introduced legislation that permits abortion in any circumstance.
As mentioned at the start of this piece, Barrett was arrested with eight other Youth Defence activists during a violent picket in May 1998 outside Adelaide Hospital in Dublin.
- Justin Barrett (28), Springtown, Granard, Co. Longford
- Michael Quinn (35), Big Stone Cottage, Ballyraggan, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow
- Maurice Colgan (25), Mountjoy Square, Youth Defence HQ.
- Christopher Palin (24), Fairview Strand, Dublin
- Ciara Ní Aodáin (24), Gracepark Heights, Drumcondra, D9
- her sister Aoife Bríd Ní Aoidaín (20), ” ” ” “
- Esme Caulfield, Brookfield Avenue, Artane
- her daughter Maria Caulfield (26), ” ” “
- Dennis Meehan, Tydavnet, Co. Monaghan
- Aidan Kavanagh, Ballygall Place, Dublin
The eight were convicted and fined for obstructing Gardai and assault.
Two years later, the court allowed appeals by Quinn and two others on charges of obstructing Gardai but dismissed appeals by Barrett, Colgan and another. It also dismissed Quinn’s appeal against breaching the Public Order Act.
In 1998, Barrett spoke on behalf of Youth Defence at the ‘Ontario For Life’ conference in Canada.
In the February 1998 edition of the Youth Defence magazine Solas, he wrote a blistering attack on two socially-liberal Jewish TDs Alan Shatter (Fine Gael) and Mervyn Taylor (Labour) and Fianna Fail for their part in legalising contraception and divorce:
There are some characters on the landscape of Irish public life who are clearly repugnant, their words and actions betray a venomous hatred for everything that passes close enough to decency to bear any resemblance and they are not at all shy in utilising every opportunity to let us know it. TD’s like Alan Shatter and the now unlamentedly departed Mervyn Taylor are electable insofar as they have been elected though I cannot fathom how … If anyone can show me a substantial difference between Fianna Fail today and Fine Gael ten years ago I’d be interested to hear it … It was Fianna Fail who legalised contraception in the first instance and extended it to being available for children. It was Fianna Fail who first began the state subsidy to the Irish Family Planning Association which to my knowledge has never been condemned as it ought by any TD. It was Fianna Fail who financed the X case, it was Fianna Fail who attempted the three card referenda on abortion, it was Fianna Fail who were in power for the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act and Masstricht and it now appears likely the Amsterdam Treaty; it was Fianna Fail who introduced the Public Order Act and it was Fianna Fails support which finally facilitated divorce.
In September 1999, Barrett and his wife Bernadette visited schools around the country to deliver a pro-life lecture called ‘Just the Facts’:
In The Irish Times (1 June 2000), he was described as “legal advisor” to Youth Defence and asked whether the group wanted new legislation as well as a constitutional amendment against abortion, Barrett was quoted as saying:
Absolutely. The 1861 legislation is inadequate. Its language describes a ‘felony’ unlawful abortion, which would imply there can be a lawful abortion.
In May 2001, he joined other right-wing Conservative campaigners in the ‘No To Nice’ campaign.
He received a lot of press coverage including this feature in the Longford Leader in May 2001.
It was revealed towards the end of 2002 that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Barrett spoke and met with a number of neo-Fascist groups in Germany and Italy.
In 1999, he attended a conference of the Young National Democrats, the youth wing of the German neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).
On 27th May 2000, he spoke at a rally of the NPD in Passau, Bavaria. Other honorary guests included neo-fascist icon Florentine Rost van Tonningen from the Netherlands, Derek Holland of the International Third Position and a former Nazi SS officer who received a standing ovation.
A video of the rally was seen by journalist Derek Scally and was described in The Irish Times (11 October 2002):
Anti-semitic speeches are peppered with quotes from Adolf Hitler. There are claims that “Germany was the biggest victim of the second World War”. Hundreds of skinheads give standing ovations to elderly Nazis.
Mr Holger Apfel, the deputy leader of the NPD was quoted in the same article confirming links between his neo-Nazi group and Youth Defence:
Justin Barrett was an honorary guest at our event in Passau. I invited him. He sat with the delegates. We have been in contact with his group since 1996. We are friendly with his Youth Defence organisation.
The same article also revealed that Barrett had a long-standing relationship with the party’s youth organisation, the Young National Democrats (JN). Sascha Rossmüller, leader of JN, said he had been in contact with Mr Barrett “for several years” and that Youth Defence “shares many important interests” with the JN and was “an important part of our international network”.
In November 2000, he attended a conference of the Italian far-right Forza Nuova group in Milan. This was first revealed by the Irish edition of the Sunday Mirror (29 September 2002).
On 20th and 21st July 2001, Barrett spoke at a Forza Nuova rally at the Hotel Miramar in Civitanova, central Italy. Other speakers included Mario Di Giovanni, Gianni Correggiari, Giacinto Auriti and Roberto Fiore who fled to Britain after his involvement in the 1980 Bologna railway bombing, which killed 85 people.
An Italian email listing the details of these events can be read here.
At the rally, as reported by the Sunday Mirror (29 September 2002), Barrett and Mario Di Giovanni (Youth Defence’s Italian representative), “voiced their support for Catholic fundamentalist revolution.”
The same Sunday Mirror piece revealed that in 2001 a group of Forza Nuova students, led by the 24-year-old Marco Gladi, visited Ireland to ‘study’ with Youth Defence.
The first Nice referendum was rejected by the Irish public in June 2001.
During the second Nice referendum in 2002, Justin Barrett spoke with former Youth Defence National Organiser Maurice Colgan at a public meeting for the right-wing No campaign in the Ardboyne Hotel, Meath. Barrett and Quinn had been arrested together at the Adelaide Hospital picket in May 1998.
The second Nice referendum was passed in October 2002.
During the 2002 Abortion referendum, he was the main spokesperson for the Mother and Child campaign. This has been described as the group Youth Defence members join when they turn 28 years of age.
In October 2002, it was revealed that Barrett had self-published a 191 page book called The National Way Forward four years previously. It was described by The Irish Times as a “strident attack on refugees, politicians, liberalism and the Belfast Agreement”.
Barrett wrote in the book:
“The refugee advocates are, almost to a man and woman, the abortion advocates, the contraception advocates, the Europhiles, the anti-Catholic bigots. In other words, the whole rotten cabal of the left … In engaging in child abuse, a Catholic priest is acting so contrary to Catholic teaching as to make such a mild description as hypocrite entirely redundant. However, as a homosexual, his actions are consistent, and might lead the general public to draw certain conclusions concerning that so-called ‘sexual orientation’.”
Positive feedback came only from the neo-Nazis and racists within the world of the Irish far-right. A user of the white nationalist online forum Stormfront called ‘Mythos’ described the book as follows:
“The Book is Brilliant, a must for any true Irish white nationalist, the chapter “a country of our own” focus on the bad effects on non-white immigration to Ireland. All i can say is buy it and read it, its is brilliant” (Stormfront, 17th August 2003)
After going to ground for a year or so, Barrett emerged to run as an independent on an anti-Immigrant ticket in the 2004 European election.
Former Sinn Fein turned Catholic right-wing activist Gerry McGeough campaigned with him on the election trail in Drogheda and Longford. McGeough told The Irish Times (7 June 2004) :
Like hundreds of republicans, I’m very disillusioned with the current leadership … I don’t believe the ordinary decent rank-and-file supports the radical pro-abortion stance Sinn Féin now adopts. There’s a big disenfranchised community out there. It’s Catholic, extremely nationalist, pro-life, EU-sceptic, and disgusted by the sleaze in Irish politics. Justin Barrett is the only man to represent that at the moment.
Barrett’s election leaflet demanded “all illegal immigrants be sent home” and that “Irish people are given priority in all new jobs”. He also demands the end of “the abuses of our social services by bogus asylum seekers” and that Irish jobs be protected “by restricting mass immigration from new EU states”.
He received 10,997 first preference votes which equaled to a 2.43% share of the total count.
Youth Defence gave him ample press in their magazine Solas and included a report from Charles Byrne (Cathal O’Broin), later to co-found The Hibernian magazine with Gerry McGeough, in the July 2004 issue:
All in all 2,000 posters were put up, 200,000 leaflets and 800,000 postcards distributed by the Barrett campaign. Despite this great effort, the huge spending by the political parties could not be matched, and Justin’s 10,997 first preference votes were a long way off target – but don’t think that this is the end of the story – Ireland’s patriots will march on!
This cause is about more than just one battle. For as long as there are people who threaten to undermine the right to life of unborn children or the sovereignty of the nation, there will be this small but incredibly stubborn band of youthful patriots, ready and willing to fight Ireland’s cause. Éire go brách!
In October 2004, Barrett was prevented from speaking at a debate in University College Dublin (UCD) by members of Anti-Fascist Action (AFA).
On 27th April 2005, Barrett and two colleagues Sinéad Dennehy and Denis O’Connor representing a group called Right Nation gave a presentation on ‘Family Issues’ to the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution.
That was the last known public appearance by Barrett.
Michael Quinn was born in 1960 in Dublin.
In the General Election of 1992, he ran unsuccessfully as a conservative, pro-Life independent in the Dun Laoghaire constituency gaining 1,705 votes. His leaflet can be read here.
Around this time, he attended many Youth Defence protests acting aggressive towards pro-choice activists.
He moved to Carlow with his family in 1995.
In 1997 General Election, he ran unsuccessfully for the National Party in the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency receiving 870 votes.
In 1998, he was featured in the April edition of Youth Defence‘s magazine Solas. The then 38-year-old (!) organised leafleting sessions and meetings in Carlow, Naas, Wicklow, Kilkenny, Clonmel in December 1997.
The editor of Solas wrote:
“Mick Quinn is a shining example of the pro-life activists all of you can be. I strongly encourage you to follow his example in your own area. With six young children he could hide behind the excuses that many of us use in failing unborn children but he doesn’t. Please pray for the success of Mick, his wife Pauline and their family in their work for the unborn.”
You can read the full thing here.
In May 1998, he was arrested with Justin Barrett and five other Youth Defence activists during a violent picket outside Adelaide Hospital in Dublin. We covered this earlier in the piece.
In the July 1998 issue of Solas, he was pictured at a Youth Defence picket with one of his sons:
In the October 1998 issue of Solas, he was pictured at a Youth Defence social event. The editor also made note of his appearance at a leafleting session in Mullingar: “We were joined by the brave Quinn family of Carlow who received rough treatment from the Gardai at the peaceful picket which was held outside the Adelaide Hospital recently. “
During the 2000s, at least three of Michael’s children – Emma, Nathan and Michael Jr. – were active with Youth Defence.
His daughter Emma Quinn wrote in Solas (April 2005) on the topic of ‘Opposing Pornography’.
She was involved with the right-wing Catholic conservative campaign group Coir that was launched in early 2008 and can be seen pictured here:
In 2008, Emma Quinn married Lorcan MacMathuna, a sister of Youth Defence founder Niamh. Lorcan took over from Gerry McGeough in 2006 as editor of the conservative Irish Family newspaper which wound down in August 2008.
In March 2010, Michael Quinn posted up a rambling manifesto online on a number of websites asking “native white Christian(s)” to get in contact with him with the intention of organising a new right-wing nationalist group in Ireland
In this incoherent declaration, Quinn outlined the basic principles of his personal politics and that of the new “political movement”. These included being against immigration, homosexuality, mixed race marriages, and same-sex marriages, Islam and the E.U. He also gave his support to far-right, nationalist groups around Europe including the British National Party (BNP), the French National Front and Jobbik from Hungary.
This led to the establishment of the neo-Fascist Democratic Right Movement (DRM).
He was featured in The Sunday Independent (15 August 2010) and was interviewed for a TV3 ‘documentary’, broadcast on 15 August 2011, looking at the issue of Roma gypsy beggars in Dublin.
Quinn told the Sunday Independent journalist:
“But I’m definitely not a republican; I have no time for republicans. Sinn Fein have gone with homosexuals, they’ve gone with lesbians, they’ve gone with homosexuals adopting children .. It’s only in the last year or so I started to become aware of what was going on in Europe, the liberal agenda, the mass immigration, the decline of the white race.”
Quinn held a number of small gatherings in his house with Irish and international neo-Nazis. This one shows John Kavanagh (grey top), Michael Quinn (striped top) and Sean Canty wearing an ’88’ t-shirt. 88 is a white supremacist numerical code for “Heil Hitler.” H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so 88 = HH = Heil Hitler.
His second command John Kavanagh, a web-designer based in Shanagolden, Limerick, used his online pseudonym ‘Europe United’ on the Stormfront forum, to make vile racist outbursts:
“I hate black people in my country, I hate indians, paki, muslims and all that other crap in my country. I want to take the fight to them directly.” (24 July 2009)
“Blacks, muslims, pakis etc, I’d round them up and shoot them all for invading my country – that’s the difference. Don’t worry about the tidy up, I make them dig their mass graves first. And I think a lot of people here feel the same” (7 August 2009)
Around 2011, Michael Quinn was pictured with former Youth Defence national organiser turned Dominican priest Maurice Colgan. The two friends along with Justin Barrett had been arrested together at the Adelaide Hospital picket in May 1998.
In July 2011, Quinn was pictured acting aggressively on Youth Defence‘s ‘Rally for Life’ in Dublin.
In April 2012, Quinn and three other DRM members traveled to Larne, Co. Antrim to meet with Ulster loyalists and members of the British Nationalist Party (BNP). The then leader of the party, Nick Griffin, lauded the “historic meeting”.
In July 2012, Quinn attended Youth Defence’s ‘Rally for Life’ in Belfast wearing a green DRM sticker on his polo shirt. Stewards from Youth Defence “protected him and allowed him to continue on the march” when pro-choice activists pointed him out.
The group split in January 2012 into Michael Quinn and John Kavanagh factions. Kavanagh launched his own group the Nationalist Movement while Quinn kept the DRM name for a time until he rebranded himself as the Irish Nationalist Brotherhood in October 2012.
Quinn’s last Twitter post was in June 2014 and the page has since being deleted. There has been no online trace of him since then.
Justin Barrett, Michael Quinn, Maurice Colgan and Peter Scully were all early members of Youth Defence in the early 1990s. They cut their teeth on the same demonstrations, pickets, leafleting sessions, brawls and pro-life conferences.
While Scully went his separate ways from Youth Defence in the mid 1990s, he never strayed from his right-wing conservative catholic politics and was active publicly until at least 2013.
Colgan, now a Dominican priest, has remained a close supporter and friend of Youth Defence to this day.
Barrett’s links with fascist groups in Germany and Italy in the early 2000s exposed Youth Defence‘s strong ties to a European network of pro-life, extreme-right groups. His flavour of Green catholic nationalism, similar to Gerry McGeough’s, fit comfortably with many of Youth Defence‘s early core membership. Though it was rumoured he played a backseat role in the Coir campaign of 2008-09, he has not been publicly heard of since 2005.
Quinn’s journey took him further to the Right than anyone else. A relatively clean-cut pro-Life ‘family man’ and hopeful politician in the 1990s, his reemergence in 2010 as an explicit racist White Nationalist possibly even shocked some of his old Youth Defence chums. However they did seem fine with him attending Rally for Life events in 2011 and 2012 when he would have been well-known and easily identified by both people in the pro-choice and anti-abortion crowds. He has been offline since 2014.
The links back to the Mac Mathuna family are, as always, interesting. Peter Scully married Una Nic Mhathuna while her brother Lorcan Mac Mathuana wed Michael Quinn’s daughter Emma. Barrett and Colgan remain close friends of the clan since the early 1990s.
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