Friday, 25 August 2017

Kevin Myers withdraws
from talk in Limerick

I am mentioned – albeit briefly, and by default – in this half-page report in the Limerick Leader this week [26 August 2017, p 5]:

Kevin Myers withdraws
from talk in Limerick


Columnist did not want to detract from main event, Trust says

Anne Sheridan

Limerick Civic Trust has said it respects the decision of controversial columnist Kevin Myers in choosing to withdraw his attendance from a talk in Limerick next month.

The trust faced a storm of “vitriolic” abuse in recent weeks after it announced that Mr Myers was to moderate a talk on censorship in Limerick city.

David O’Brien, chief executive of the trust, told the Limerick Leader that he has spoken at length to Mr Myers in recent days, who felt it was best he withdraw from the forum “in the present circumstances”.

“He felt that his presence was going to take away from the event itself and become an alternative event, and that just wouldn’t be right,” said Mr O’Brien.

“Limerick Civic Trust respects the decision of Kevin Myers. A long-standing journalist in Ireland, Kevin has been no stranger to controversy and initiated many strenuous debates over the years. The trust does not comment on his comments.

“However, the purpose of the autumn lecture series is to educate, inspire and inform public discourse. The series has been designed to challenge ideas and opinions, tease out arguments and hold a constructive debate and for that reason some of our commentators may be more controversial than others,” he said.

The Sunday Times published an apology following the publication of an article on July 30 last by Mr Myers, which contained offensive remarks about women and Jewish people, suggesting that presenters Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman were well paid by the BBC because they were Jewish.

The talk on censorship, which will be given by Jodie Ginsberg, of the Index on Censorship – the only female speaker in the series of talks organised by Limerick Civic Trust.

The talk will now be moderated by Church of Ireland Reverend Patrick Comerford, of Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin.

Ms Ginsberg earlier said she was “happy” for Mr Myers to moderate the event, while the trust also refused to withdraw the invitation after receiving a barrage of criticism. “I wouldn’t be much of a free speech advocate if I refused to debate with someone whose views I disagree with,” said Ms Ginsberg.

“I am a feminist of Jewish heritage: I find much of what Myers has written deeply offensive,” she said.

Mr Myers was invited by the trust to moderate the event about five weeks before the column which led to his dismissal from the Sunday Times, appeared in print.

Mr O’Brien said the time-line of events is indicative that the invitation was not a “provocative, calculated” move on their part to attract a greater audience, which critics suggested.

The trust received a number of “distasteful emails, full of vitriol” regarding Mr Myers’ name on the billing, as well as abuse on social media, in addition to criticism of its “male dominated” line-up of speakers.

Mr O’Brien said they “weren’t seeking to have a male-dominated panel”, and admitted while “there is a gender imbalance, but it wasn’t contrived”.

“In fact, we invited a lot of women, who weren’t available but have indicated their willingness to take part next year. So, in fact, next year it is quite possible that we will have a female-dominated panel,” he told the Limerick Leader.

● Jodie Ginberg’s lecture, ‘How censorship stifles debate and undermines the tenets of free and democratic societies’, is in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, on 28 September 2017.

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