Far-right leader to speak at Trinity

Nick Griffin of the BNP (Mrmurrey via Wikimedia Commons)

Again, irrelevant now, but my first article for the NUI Galway paper Sin. Appeared on September 26 2011.

British National Party leader Nick Griffin is to visit Trinity College on the 20th of October next to speak at the college’s Philosophical Society.

The motion which Mr Griffin, 52, will be proposing, is entitled “This House Believes That Immigration Has Gone Too Far.” The Irish Times reported on Monday that plans for the debate have been thrown into disarray with the withdrawal of former Guardian journalist John Palmer, who was opposing the motion. Mr Palmer stated that unless the invitation to Mr Griffin was rescinded he would not participate.

Mr Griffin is no stranger to controversy. A former member of the far-right National Front, he has been leader of the BNP since 1999 and was elected to the European Parliament in 2009. The BNP is one of a number of far-right parties which have risen to prominence across Europe in the last number of years. The BNP wish to stop immigration into Britain in all but the most “exceptional cases”. While Mr Griffin once stated he would offer immigrants to Britain £50,000 to return to their country of origin, but the Irish were welcome to stay as “the Irish are part of Britain and are fully entitled to come here”.

Mr Griffin has been accused by his opponents of racism and supporting fascism, and was convicted of inciting racial hatred in 1998. Perhaps most controversially of all, he is on record as stating that “I am well aware that the orthodox opinion is that six million Jews were gassed and cremated and turned into lampshades. Orthodox opinion also once held that the world is flat.”

The Union of Jewish Students and other groups have spoken out against Griffin’s proposed visit to Trinity College. Aidan Rowe, a former auditor of NUI Maynooth’s Literary and Debating Society and anti-fascist activist, says “The Phil’s decision to invite Nick Griffin to debate immigration is irresponsible, dangerous and wrong… We believe in free speech but it is not the only right nor is it inalienable. Organisations like the Phil have a responsibility when organising debates not to allow fascists a platform to spread hate against ethnic and racial minorities and to recruit people to their cause.”

In a statement Trinity 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.”

The controversy about Nick Griffin’s visit to Trinity echoes a controversial plan to have historian and Holocaust denier David Irving speak to NUIG in 2009. The debate was cancelled due to security concerns.

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