Oct 14, 2011

Phil statement on the withdrawal of the invitation to BNP leader Nick Griffin

The Phil feels it is unfortunate that circumstances have arisen under which the planned debate can no longer go ahead without compromising the safety of staff and students.

Following on from a meeting with college authorities on Thursday at 5:30pm, and a prior meeting of the officers of council, we came to the unanimous decision to cancel the debate on immigration scheduled to take place on October 20th. It has been speculated that this decision came as a reaction to a small number of non-students staging a confrontational ‘sit-in’ on Thursday evening in the Graduate’s Memorial Building. By way of clarification, the Phil would like to confirm that the decision on the debate had already been made by the time the event in question had occurred. However, the nature and tone of the incident crystallized for council the correctness of the resolution to cancel the debate, due to the seriousness of the potential threat to the safety of students and staff.


The position of the Phil with regards to the rights of all of the speakers to discuss immigration in this debate remains unchanged.  Though the Council in many ways are ideologically opposite to Mr Griffin, we recognise that a true debate does not carry with it an assumption of moral righteousness for any side or submission; and that the spirit of free speech and oratory is best protected by those who would allow their moral nemesis to present a case – even if only to test our personal consideration of what is right and wrong. As a liberal society in a liberal institution, we feel that Mr Griffin’s right to speak on immigration should be protected. Despite this, The Phil have been put in a position whereby to proceed with the debate would be to risk the safety of our members. After the submission of serious security concerns by college authorities, the Gardai and other members of the student body – we feel we have no other responsible choice in this matter than to cancel the debate.

We deeply regret the society’s incapacity to act as an open forum for discourse in this matter.

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  • wut

    Another victory for the “anti”-fascists. Sure, the threat of violence preventing an open debate has never been seen in fascism. Not once.

  • B

    Last night’s events at the Phil really did a lot to undermine the previous integrity of the anti-Nick Griffin campaigners. Unfortunate really.
    Sad to see that the Phil had to back down but I can see where they’re coming from I suppose.

  • Disillusioned Man

    Incapacitation is not a noun

  • http://twitter.com/davehiggz David Higgins

    I’m repulsed by the opinions of Griffin and the BNP but today is a sad day for free speech.

    The so called anti-fascists have behaved like fascists themselves.

    It seems the left is all for free speech, unless it’s from the right.

  • KN

    ”By way of clarification, the Phil would like to confirm that the decision on the debate had already been made by the time the event in question had occurred”

    Well done to TAF.

  • B

    KN – I’m not sure it would be accurate to attribute this to TAF given that the debate was cancelled for different reasons – it is clearly stated that the debate was cancelled for safety for staff, students and security rather than the belief that Griffin should not be given a platform on ideological grounds.

  • http://www.teaandtoast.ie Eoghan Boyce

    There is a difference between free speech and free publicity.

    The antifascist movement doesn’t deny Griffin’s right to his opinion, but must deny that he has a right to free publicity from an organisation of prestige such as the Phil.

    The implication of the invite was that Griffin has a rational point to make on immigration, which he does not. He incites racial hatred and bigotry, and both are the result of ignorance, not rational thinking.

    David Higgins, your comment is disgraceful. One can have a rational position against immigration, but the BNP don’t hold one…

    • Gary Aronsson

      So you don’t mind a person having an opinion with which you disagree,how very liberal of you!
      Your point is that he should not be able to engage in a discussion in a public arena because you believe that it implies he has a rational point to make on the subject of immigration,how do YOU know that he hasn’t?

      If you actually BELIEVED in freedom,rather than simply used the word as cloak for your own very evident fascist tendencies,you would recognise the invitation was a perfect opportunity to subject Griffins views to a robust public examination to see if they held a grain of truth.All you have done is to demonstrate that your own beliefs are so weak and feeble that they require a bodyguard of threats and thuggery to protect them from the risk of being shown false by an encounter with a contrary view!

  • John Condon

    I wish the Phil would be more specific about these security threats. I can only assume that do so would be a security threat in itself or, alternatively, that the Phil is talking nonsense and it revoked its invitation because it realised how embarrassing Nick Griffin’s presence in Trinity would be.

  • Seo

    “There is a difference between free speech and free publicity.” And the actions of the TAF have INCREASED the free publicity from a small college debate with a maximum of 300 attendees to something that is getting national attention.

    If you think speaking at the Phil grants prestige you should look at some of the people who have spoken there before.

    The security threat they are speaking about is obvious, Trinity security can’t deal with 30 or more people, which means they would not be in control of what happens, hence that is a security threat. I’m sure they’re all saints of course and would have just let Nick Griffin past unaccosted but security can’t operate under that assumption for some reason so they had to prevent the event from taking place.

  • conor mcquillan

    The Phil’s statement is horseshit – if the decision was taken before the sit-in then they were pre-emptively accusing I and others who were planning to protest peacefully, exercising our own right to free speech and free assembly, of actually planning violence. Pretty ironic, since they were inviting Nick Griffin – who would have travelled with his henchmen who have convictions for violent, agressive crime.

    • D

      It was more about how TAF had made a statement saying that “bus loads of violent protestors are coming from cork and belfast” and that the committee of the Phil had received threatening emails from multiple anti-facist protestors.

  • S

    John Condon, if you’d bothered to read the statement properly then you would understand that those security threats became very real at the Thursday night attempted sit-in. Also, if you’d bothered to read the article properly you would see that the Phil very much regrets the fact that they had to cancel and defended the premise upon which they invited him.

  • D

    Eoghan, where does this right to publicity you talk about come from? Who is entitled to it? Who decides?
    What use is the right of someone to hold an opinion if you can unilaterally take away that person’s right to express it to others willing to listen to it whenever you disagree with the content of that person’s opinion?

    Doesn’t an opinion of a minority which is despised by the majority require special protection? Don’t I as someone, like many others, who disagrees with such an opinion have a right to hear it?

    Since when is there a prerequisite that a speaker at the Phil has to have a minimum level of rationality? Again, who are you to decide?

    Surely people can’t justify censorship under the need to prevent a breach of the peace if they are the one’s threatening to breach the peace?

    It has been said time and time again that having Nick Griffin speak at the Phil does not endorse or give legitimacy to his views in any way. Guests to the Phil (which have included homophobes, racists and religious fascists) have never been invited on this basis. It is simply a reflection of the fact that he is a known and prominent speaker on the issue of immigration, which nobody can really deny… even if he is an odious prick.

    This decision the Phil have been bullied into is wrong and an unfortunate loss for free speech.

  • Barry

    Eoghan, you say the purpose of the invite is to allow Griffin to make a rational point but he doesn’t have one. What a load of non-sense! Since when does one side to a debate assume intellectual superiority over the other is judging what points are made against their own position are legitimate or not? Talk about not getting the point!

  • Rashid Butt

    I have 2 questions:
    1. Is the debate on Immigration going ahead on 20 Oct?
    2. I am not a student/ faculty member of Trinity. How does one get the entry ticket for attending any debate @Phil?


  • L

    Only members of the Phil (who must be students or staff) can attend Phil events.

  • B

    The debate on immigration is cancelled and being replaced by a debate on free speech. I would imagine that speakers from TAF etc would be invited (at least they should be) to justify their movement against it.

    • jack

      got it in one!

  • Fiona Dunkin
  • Curruthers P. Merriweather III, 17th Earl of Sussex

    Isn’t it creepy that the Phil refers to itself in the third person?

  • neil

    Wow, what a completely pathetic chapter in the history of one of Trinity’s most venerable and, formerly, intellectually vibrant, societies. The entire Phil executive should be ashamed of itself.

  • carl mason

    What are the lefties afraid of??? here was your chance to prove the BNP are wrong , and you ran away, and you are meant to be future leaders ? i think not.

  • Vincent J. Lavery

    Dear Readers: Out of this disgraceful chapter in the history of Trinity College Dublin and the Philosophical Society in particular has grown an organisation called “The Irish Free Speech Movement”. History must not record that extremists from the Left were able to prevent an extremeist from the Right from being heard. Please contact the undersigned for further information. Vincent J. Lavery, Coliemore Road, Dalkey, County Dublin Home phone: 01 214 8297 Mobile: 085 777 3 999 Email: [email protected]

  • burtenshaw

    Trinity Against Fascism letter to the Irish Times in the wake of Mr. Lavery’s letter of 30th November, (Printed December 5th):

    “Sir, – In response to Mr Lavery’s letter (BNP leader invitation, November 30th), we wish to draw a distinction between free speech and a platform.

    Nick Griffin is free to come to Ireland to speak whenever he wants. Trinity Against Fascism opposed the invitation to Mr Griffin on the grounds that it was offering him a platform in a prominent forum as an invited guest speaker.

    We did this because his organisation incites hatred against, and seeks to marginalise, those from migrant and non-white backgrounds. The offer of a platform adds legitimacy to his cause and conflates immigration with white-nationalist racism. This is particularly irresponsible in a recessionary Ireland where there has been a string of recent high-profile racist incidents.

    The struggle for freedom of speech involves sacrifice on the part of those struggling for it – not their engagement in tabloid sensationalism, with the risk being passed on to communities in more vulnerable positions than their own. Gaining platforms in prominent arenas is a tactic used by organised racist groups to legitimise their views, bring them into the mainstream and justify the racism of an often violent minority. We want no part of it. Yours, etc. –

    Rónán Burtenshaw, JS Geography & Political Science
    Eamonn Cummins, SS Genetics
    David Barker, SS Economics & Geography
    Georgie Lezcano, JS Geography & Political Science
    Neal Ó Rián, PhD Astrophysics
    Martha Dalton, BA (History)
    Eoin Silke, JF Medicine
    Diarmaid Murphy, LLB
    Gabriel Beecham, SS Medicine
    Paul Goldrick-Kelly, SF Natural Science
    Donncha Ó Conmhuí, LLB
    Manus Lenihan, JS History & English
    Adam Noonan, SF Politics & Philosophy
    Seán Byrne, SS Bsc. Information Systems
    Ian Curran, JF English
    Conor McQuillan, SS Medicine
    Jack Leahy, SF History & English Literature
    Ruthi Hymes, SS Drama & English
    Tommy Gavin, SF Sociology & Philosophy
    Darragh Haugh, SS Law
    Neil Warner, JS History & Politics
    James Hagan, SS English
    Ciarán Lyng, SS German & Law

    on behalf of Trinity Against Fascism

    Conor Ryan, National Chairperson, Labour Youth
    David Hugh Hartery, University of Limerick
    William O’Brien, NUIG SU Equality Officer
    Kurt Nikolaisen, Love Music – Hate Racism
    Fearghal O’Ruadh, NUI Maynooth
    MANDATE Trade Union
    Anti-Racism Network Ireland
    Residents Against Racism

    in support of Trinity Against Fascism”