[Irving speaking in Ireland]
06 March 2008
Holocaust denier prompts UCC to up debate security
By Eoin English
A HUGE security operation is planned around a free-speech debate in Cork next week featuring controversial right-wing historian David Irving.
Organisers in University College Cork’s Philosophical Debating Society confirmed last night that the event, featuring the convicted Holocaust denier, will go ahead on Monday night despite threats.
Society auditor Ross Frenett said both he and the society had received threatening phone calls and abusive messages since it was confirmed Mr Irving had accepted their invitation to attend the debate.
Posts on a white-supremacists website have also urged Irving sympathisers to travel to Cork to support the event.
The society had invited Mr Irving to UCC in 1999 but the lecture was cancelled at the last minute amid security concerns. About 600 protesters gathered outside the UCC venue where Mr Irving was to deliver a lecture, Myths of the Second World War.
Scuffles broke out with gardaí before reinforcements were called in. Two college security guards and a number of students were injured in the scuffles.
The incident led to the removal of college facilities and privileges from Young Sinn Féin, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Society and the Socialist Worker Society, which had all been involved in the protest
Mr Frenett said organisers of Monday’s debate are anxious to avoid a repeat of that incident.
“We have no problem with protest but our number one concern is public safety,” he said.
“We are confident that the steps we are taking will help us avoid the pitfalls of the 1999 event.”
He said they have been, and are continuing to liaise closely with college authorities and gardaí, and steps are being taken to ensure security and public safety.
Mr Frenett said:
* The location of the debate will be kept secret until the last minute. Just four people are aware of the venue.
* People must register online to get access to the event.
* Those who have registered will be vetted to ensure they have not made threats before being cleared to attend.
* Extra college security staff, backed up by private security firms, will be involved in the security operation.
“You can’t just stop people from speaking because you don’t agree with them,” said Mr Frenett.
“We have more faith in people than that. This is a debate and I fully expect Mr Irving’s views to be strongly challenged.
“He won’t get an easy ride. We have had a number of high-profile speakers in the past and we don’t endorse their views.”
Mr Irving, 69, was found guilty by an Austrian court of denying the Holocaust and sentenced to three years in prison.
He had pleaded guilty to the charge, based on a speech and interview he gave in Austria in 1989.
He served a prison sentence from February to December 2006.
Mr Irving will speak in favour of the motion “That this house believes free speech should be free from restraint”.
However, Socialist Party city councillor Mick Barry said the invitation should be withdrawn.
He urged members of the general public to email UCC president Michael Murphy and the Philosophy Society to demand that the invitation be withdrawn.