I’ve undertaken the task of surveying the state of free speech in the parts of Europe that haven’t been covered here previously.
This is the first of an occasional series on instances of official repression wielded to combat “racism”, “discrimination”, and “incitement to hatred” in European countries.
Islam O’Phobe is a regular reader and commenter from Ireland, and I asked him for information about the state of free speech in his country. Here’s what he had to say.
There was a significant controversy involving the Irish Independent columnist Kevin Myers a few months ago.
Before I delve into that I should first provide you with some context relating to the “bastard” controversy. Kevin Myers wrote an article in the Irish Times in 2005 criticising girls who bore children out of wedlock as conceiving “bastards”. He used the word “bastards” in the column repeatedly (about 20 times) which set off a firestorm of criticism.
The national outrage that ensued was not manufactured. All the radio talk-in shows were deluged non-stop with complaints — not just from the usual complainers but people from every aspect of life. It upset a lot of people. I heard anecdotally from my Aunt that someone scratched into his car “Who’s the Bastard Now?” The car-scratching incident never made it into the media as far as I know.
He lost his job at the Irish Times (technically speaking he resigned) and was subsequently scooped up by the Irish Independent, for which he now writes.
Fast forward three years later to 2008 and this article in which Myers criticises aid to Africa, the dismal wasteland that is African culture, and his fellow journalists for their dishonesty in not reporting the facts on the ground.
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He was heavily criticised by the left-wing media such as the Irish Times and the Metro, a free daily staffed almost entirely by African immigrants and dedicated to promoting multiculturalism. Most Irish people either agreed with Myers or didn’t notice the fuss.
Myers was reported to the Press Council, who have the power to penalise journalists if it is decided that they are guilty of “incitement to hatred”.
Myers was exonerated of “incitement to hatred” but, as he explains in this article, he was misrepresented by the Irish Times legal correspondent when the verdict was reported.
The upshot is that, having won the case, he can more or less write whatever he wants. His article comparing mass immigration into Britain to the fall of Constantinople being a case in point. On the BNP website the commenters complain that the link to this article gets deleted from the Sun newspaper’s site.
So this debacle was the significant episode of Irish free-speech crackdown in recent years, and it happily resulted in an (unofficial) precedent of Danish-like levels of free expression. No doubt in my mind. However, that there will be other charges of “racism”/”hatred” to answer in the future.
I recall debating the creation of the Press Council several years ago. It was argued to me that in return for
stricter controls on offensiveness there would be a relaxation of libel laws. Talk about a bad trade!
In any case, I will keep you updated on any future inquisitions presided over by the Press Council. The equally odious Equality Authority has sadly been drained of funds lately due to the recent recession. What a pity.
Cross-posted at the International Free Press Society.