Posted Thursday, April 19, 2001

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London, Thursday, April 19, 2001

[Shorter version; click for unedited Internet version]

Irving to debate with libel QC at Oxford Union

Will Woodward
Education editor


THE Oxford Union [of Oxford University] came under fire last night for inviting David Irving, the HoIocaust denier, to address students in a debate with the barrister who faced him across the high court, Mr Irving will contest the motion that "this house would restrict the free speech of extremists" at the university debating chamber on May10.

RamptonRichard Rampton QC (right) successfully defended the academic Deborah Lipstadt last year after her book had accused Mr Irving of being a Holocaust denier. The judge, Mr Justice Gray, agreed and ruled Mr Irving was "an anti-Semite and a racist ... a right-wing pro-Nazi polemicist'

Mr Irving, who represented himself in the libel trial, is due for a further court encounter with Mr Rampton when he seeks leave to appeal [on June 20] against the verdict.

An invitation from the union last year for Mr Irving to speak was cancelled after protests. The union said that this time it intended to fulfil the invitation and had contacted Thames Valley police.

Claire Dissington, of the Anti-Nazi League, said her organisation would try to prevent the debate and would put pressure on other speakers.

Michael Whinge, spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "I am really surprised that Richard Rampton is giving him any credence whatsoever by appearing on the platform with him."

Mr. Rampton said: "I have no problem appearing in a debate of that kind against him. As a professional advocate, and for the purpose of this debate, I have no feelings about him at all. I think these arguments are best won largely speaking by open debate."

Mr Irving said: "I don't think Rampton will be able to persuade the students of Oxford that opposing free speech will be a good thing."

In a statement, Amy Harland, president of the union, said: "Whatever the outcome of this debate, if Britain is to be a free and diverse nation, this is an issue that needs to be addressed."



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 Action Report on the invitation [with links to press clippings about previous such invitations]
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