Huffington Post columnist responds to IrishCentral over anti-Irish jokes
'If we ban all Irishman jokes, what next? If someone from Dingle claims offense, must we ban all Kerryman jokes?'
- Rory Fitzgerald defends anti-Irish joke on HuffPo / Click here
- Niall O'Dowd's original blog / HuffPo writer agrees with printing anti-Irish jokes / Click here
- Douglas Murray's Daily Telegraph blog - Anyone know any Irishman jokes? / Click here
The Daily Telegraph’s recent publication of a blog inviting Irish jokes has provoked strong emotions. Mr O’Dowd recently wrote a column commenting on my perspective on this issue: "Huffington Post column is in favour of printing anti-Irish jokes."
Mr. O’Dowd makes a very fair point about the sensitivities of those who lived in Britain in the past. Those people, he says, remember real and virulent prejudice against Irish people. I too recall being rudely searched in Heathrow and in ferry ports during the IRA bombing campaigns of the early 1990s. I can understand why people who suffered from real anti-Irish prejudice in the past would not like seeing Irish jokes being bandied about again.
But the point I make is that free speech requires us to be a little bit thick-skinned. Free speech is endangered in the world today, precisely because of new laws designed to stop people being offended. On a global scale, free speech as regards religion is under threat at since the UN introduced the concept of “defamation of religion” last year. Soon you may not be able to criticize any religious idea, however bad or dangerous it may be: all because people don’t want to be offended.
Most people in Britain today have a lot of respect for the Irish. Despite the current recession, Irish people remain on average wealthier than the British. The Irish have a massive impact on British culture and media, from Graham Norton, to Terry Wogan to Dara O’Brian. I think that we need to get over the idea that the British look down on us. They don’t any more. They envy us: our culture is strong and thriving while theirs is confused and in crisis. We have a strong sense of identity and kinship while Britain frets over its “broken society.” Here is West Cork there are thousands of English people who have fled a society that they feel is falling apart.
Some people have said that Irish jokes are “racist” but this is an abuse of the word. There is no racial difference between British and Irish people: take a hundred random pictures of Irish faces and British faces, and you won’t be able to tell the one from the other. Genetic studies also show that there is little or no racial difference between the two peoples. Both also share an inordinate tendency to drink tea.