Posted Thursday, May 10, 2001

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There was a large potential for interesting and important debate. The right of free speech has been compromised. -- The Oxford Union press officer

London, Thursday, May 10, 2001

Peterborough column

Free speech under threat at Oxford Union

The Oxford Union has withdrawn its invitation to Holocaust revisionist David Irving to speak at a debate only a day before he was to take the podium.

Irving had agreed to face Richard Rampton QC -- who successfully defended Deborah Lipstadt against Irving's libel action last year -- to oppose the motion: "This house would restrict the free speech of extremists ."

Irving was disinvited yesterday after an open meeting of union members. The union's press officer says:

"We are very disappointed. The meeting of members yesterday morning was staffed by a very vocal minority who were worried about student safety. There was no real threat to safety. Instead, there was a large potential for interesting and important debate. The right of free speech has been compromised by objections led, to a large extent, by the student union."

This is the third time Irving has had an invitation to speak in the city withdrawn. Last year, a smaller Speaker's meeting was vetoed on the grounds that it would give Irving "the platform to give a talk and answer inappropriate questions". And just before Christmas, the Oxford Reform Club also withdrew an invitation amid concerns over safety.

Edited by Sam Leith

Related items on this website:

  debate storm | boycott threat | threat to Oxford Union over Irving appearance

Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Oxford Union has to rescind invitation to David Irving to speak

Tomorrow's historic "Free speech" debate in the Oxford Union will take place without him.

At 2 p.m. today Wednesday an Oxford journalist informed Mr Irving of the eleventh-hour decision, which was reached under pressure from international institutions. The writer has refused to comment.

Simultaneously Associated Press Sky Television informed Mr Irving that the university body -- which has still to inform him of the decision -- has already informed The Jewish Chronicle and promised that the controversial invitation will be withdrawn after all.

The TV company has proposed that he attend the function in person to state his case, invited or not.

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