Yesterday Ross Frenett, debate organiser on behalf of UCC’s Philosoph Society, said following cancellation of the guest speaker’s attendance, those protesting against his appearance had been invited to partake instead.
“We have invited the Stop Irving Campaign to take part. After all, the motion is That this house believes free speech should be free from restraint. We have invited them to give their views on why they feel Mr Irving is not entitled to free speech.”
Mr Irving, 69, was sentenced to three years in jail by an Austrian court in 2006 after denying the Holocaust. He served a prison sentence from February to December 2006.
Mr Frenett said they had invited Mr Irving to UCC “as someone who has had a deep personal experience for what he said”, and as such, an ideal candidate for commenting on free speech.
Mr Frenett was critical of the college authorities and the gardaí for “putting pressure” to cancel Mr Irving’s appearance. UCC had ruled out the possibility of the debate taking place on college grounds and Mr Frenett claimed the gardaí had put pressure on the operators of private venues where the students had proposed to hold the debate.
Yesterday Superintendent Mick Finn said: “We liaised with the organisers and the college and they made a decision not to go ahead grounded on sound advice.”
It is the second time a planned appearance by Mr Irving has been called off.
In 1999 he was due to give a speech at UCC but it was cancelled at the last minute after scuffles broke out between gardaí and about 600 protestors gathered outside the venue.
Mr Frenett said he had received threats in the run up to Mr Irving’s second scheduled appearance. He said while they weredisappointed Mr Irving would not be taking part, they had nonetheless initiated a debate on the national airwaves — Mr Irving appeared on the Late Late Show last Friday — and “in the grand scheme of things, it was a victory for free speech”.
Tonight’s debate takes place at Boole 4, UCC at 8pm.