Irish Examiner by Eoin English | Thursday, 26 January 2012 | Click here for original article
Almost 40 UCC academics last night welcomed the decision to withdraw an invitation to British far-right leader Nick Griffin to take part in a university debate on free speech.
Mr Griffin, MEP and chairman of the British National Party (BNP), had been invited to a debate on campus on Feb 23 entitled ‘The Importance of Free Speech in Modern Society’.
But the university’s Government and Politics Society pulled the invitation following submissions from staff and gardaí, who outlined a potential threat to the safety and welfare of students and the public.
The debate will go ahead without Mr Griffin.
Last night, a group of 33 academics from across the university issued a statement welcoming the society’s decision.
"We consider that the invitation was ill-judged and was issued with little regard for the potential negative consequences of welcoming this individual on campus," they said.
"The principle of free speech is an important one to which we are entirely committed, but it must be placed in context.
"Mr Griffin is no ordinary politician.
"A convicted exponent of hate-speech, he is the leader of an extreme right-wing movement with a history of intimidation and violence against minorities and with links to other like-minded parties on the European far right.
"Their targets have at various times included ethnic minorities, Jews, Muslims and the LGBT community.
"There is a qualitative difference between the protection of freedom of speech and providing a privileged University platform for a party who are well known to use such events in Britain to organise fascist and racist violence.
"We are glad that UCC will not be used as a vehicle of violence in this manner."
The academics said while Ireland is fortunate in having no equivalent of the BNP or Mr Griffin, they said there are politicians and political parties who support racist views/practices, including anti-Traveller racism.
"No country is insulated from the destructive views and actions of those who promote racist and fascist views," they said.
"We strongly oppose all forms of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and homophobia.
"We believe in the fostering of a campus community based on equality, mutual respect and the right of everyone to live in a safe environment."
Trinity College Dublin withdrew its invitation to Mr Griffin to speak at a debate on immigration last year.
The statement was signed by Dr Andy Bielenberg, School of History; Christian van den Bosch, Coastal and Marine Research Centre; Professor Alastair Christie, School of Applied Social Studies; Dr Mark Chu, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures; Dr Linda Connolly, School of Sociology and Philosophy; Professor Patricia Coughlan, School of English; Dr Maura Cunneen, School of Education; Professor Alex Davis, School of English; Dr Claire Edwards, School of Applied Social Studies; Eluska Fernández, School of Applied Social Studies; Nilmini Fernando, School of Clinical Therapies; Dr Harry Gijbels, School of Nursing and Midwifery; Dr Kathy Glavanis, School of Sociology and Philosophy; Sharon Harrington, Office of Corporate and Legal Affairs; Dr Clodagh Harris, Department of Government; Eileen Hogan, School of Applied Social Studies; Dr Mary Horgan, School of Education; Dr Karl Kitching, School of Education; Dr Lee Jenkins, School of English; Dr Liz Kiely, School of Applied Social Studies; Dr Edward Lahiff, Department of Food Business and Development; Dr Piaras Mac Éinrí, School of Geography and Archaeology: the Human Environment; Dr Sandra McAvoy, Women’s Studies; Rosemary Meade, School of Applied Social Studies; Dr Mike Murphy, School of Applied Psychology; Dr Caitríona Ní Laoire, College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences; Dr Stephen O’Brien, School of Education; Dr Patrick O’Mahony, School of Sociology and Philosophy; Dr Jacqui O’Riordan, School of Applied Social Studies; Dr Seamus Ó Tuama, Department of Government; Lydia Sapouna, School of Applied Social Studies; Dr Tracey Skillington, School of Sociology and Philosophy and Dr Allen White, School of Geography and Archaeology: the Human Environment.