A STUDENT SOCIETY in Trinity College has withdrawn its invitation to the British National Party leader Nick Griffin to speak at a debate next week.
Griffin, an MEP for north-west England, was to address the Philosophical Society’s debate on immigration next Thursday evening, but the college this lunchtime confirmed that it and the society had decided to withdraw the invite.
The decision to withdraw the invitation came after around 30 protesters disrupted the society’s weekly debate last night, as part of a campaign against Griffin’s invitation.
Student newspaper the University Times added that around 40 people had attended a public meeting against Griffin’s invite on Tuesday evening, including a number of people from the Philosophical Society’s council. Academics from other institutions had also attended that meeting.
A statement from the society and the university said the decision had been taken after careful consideration and after both parties had taken “all safety considerations into account”.
They said that the safety of staff and students could not be guaranteed, and that neither Griffin nor any members of the BNP would be given access to the college grounds as a result.
The statement added that the college “encourages balanced debate and freedom of speech at all times” and respected the autonomy afforded to student societies.
‘Bunch of leftists’
BNP spokesperson Simon Darby told TheJournal.ie that the decision to withdraw the invite was “not entirely surprising”.
“It’s disappointing – you’d think Ireland would have at least a rudimentary understanding about free speech,” Darby said, adding that Griffin regularly attracted votes from second- and third-generation Irish families.
“It’s up to students to decide if Nick is right or wrong. I wouldn’t like to be told who I can and cannot listen to, by a bunch of leftists,” he added.
Darby added that the only recent occasion on which Griffin had been permitted to speak at a university debate was at Oxford University in 2007. That appearance had resulted in major protests at the university, with a heavy police presence required to avert rioting.
“It means anyone opposing immigration – and actually meaning it – isn’t given a chance to speak,” he said.
The withdrawal of Griffin’s invitation is not the first time that a high-profile overseas politician has been stopped from speaking at an Irish college.
In 2008, UCD’s Law Society was forced to withdraw an invitation to French far-right leader Jean Marie Le Pen when university authorities refused to sanction the event.