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Monday, 19 September 2011

Debate invite to BNP chief prompts major row at TCD society

A planned debate at Trinity College’s Philosophical Society has divided its committee and been thrown into disarray following a decision to invite British National Party MEP Nick Griffin to take part.

The debate, on the motion that This House Believes Immigration Has Gone Too Far , is scheduled for October 20th next.

Mr Griffin has agreed to speak in favour of the motion. Another speaker who had agreed to oppose the motion withdrew at the weekend on discovering that Nick Griffin was to take part.

John Palmer, who is on the governing board of the European Policy Centre and deputy chairman of its Political Europe programme, told The Irish Times last night he found it “totally unacceptable” that Mr Griffin should take part in such a debate, and had told the organisers he would not take part if Mr Griffin’s invitation was not withdrawn.

Former European correspondent at the Guardian , Mr Palmer said: “The BNP’s roots are in Nazism, and it is very clear those roots remain strongly Nazi.” He had “no problem taking part in debates with people who had racist or reactionary views on immigration”, but he would not do so “with a party rooted in support for the Holocaust and all that represents”. The BNP also had “extreme anti-Muslim policies”, he said.

TCD’s Socialist Party Society has also opposed the invitation to Mr Griffin, as has the Union of Jewish Students in Britain. They called on the Philosophical Society to withdraw its invitation to Mr Griffin, pointing out that “as was witnessed at Durham and Oxford universities, publicity stunts such as these tear apart student communities and contribute to a hostile environment for Jewish students on campus”.

In a brief statement last night, the Philosophical Society said: “The Phil is a neutral forum for discussion. We do not endorse the views of any of our speakers. Nick Griffin has been invited to speak solely on immigration. He is a prominent speaker on this issue. The debate will be balanced, with two guest speakers on each side of the motion.”

When asked who those guest speakers would be, society president Eoin Ó Liatháin said he did not wish to comment further.

According to Trinity News, the story about Nick Griffin’s participation in the debate first leaked on the blog of the BNP’s press officer, Simon Darby.

Mr Palmer said last night he had been first contacted by the Trinity society about taking part in a debate “some months ago, and had agreed in principle”. He was presented with the motion “a couple of weeks ago, but no further information”.

He believes he was sent another message in the middle of last week indicating Mr Griffin would be taking part, but as he was abroad at the time he did not receive it until Saturday evening last. He then contacted the society to say that “unless the invitation to Nick Griffin was withdrawn I would not participate”.

He also believed the debate had divided the Phil committee, some of whom had told him they “strongly opposed” the Griffin invitation.

Irish Times