Posted Monday, May 7, 2001

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Everywhere around the world, they are at the forefront of a campaign to silence me. -- David Irving to the press


Press Association

London, Friday, May 4, 2001

Press Association Newsfile


May 4, 2001, Friday



Dominic Hayes
Education Correspondent, PA News

A LEADING lecturer today threatened to campaign for a boycott of one of Britain's most famous academic institutions for inviting notorious far-right historian David Irving to speak in a debate.

David Triesman, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, criticised the Oxford Union for asking him to appear next Thursday.

Giving Mr Irving a platform was likely to inflame racial tensions in the run-up to a General Election, Mr Triesman claimed, and he vowed to call for an "academic boycott" of the union, both in the UK and across the world.

Last year, the historian lost a High Court libel action against academic Deborah Lipstadt, who had accused him of being a "Holocaust denier".

She said his work attempted to claim that Nazi Germany's genocidal campaign against Jews, gypsies and homosexuals, killing six million people during the Second World War, was a myth.

Finding for Ms Lipstadt, Mr Justice Gray said Mr Irving was an "anti-Semite and a racist".

He has been asked to speak against the motion in a debate entitled

"This House Would Restrict Free Speech for Extremists"

alongside Rohan Jayasekera, director of the Index on Censorship.

A scheduled appearance at the union last year by Mr Irving was cancelled following protests.

In a letter to union president Amy Harland, Mr Triesman wrote:

"As an educator, a trade unionist and a passionate advocate of the notion of tolerance and inclusion, I cannot accept your contention that it is correct to allow Mr Irving a platform at such a prestigious institution as the union.

"It will not be possible for the UK to develop as a multicultural and free society whilst the views of people like Mr Irving are offered refuge by important institutions like the union.

"If the Oxford Union feels compelled to proceed with the invitation I must inform you that this would leave me with no other option than to call for an academic boycott of the union both in this country and from amongst the academic community and other trade unions throughout the world."

Oxford Student Union president Kirsty McNeill backed Mr Triesman's call for Mr Irving's appearance to be cancelled.

"If this debate goes ahead, there will be a demonstration outside."

A spokesman for the Oxford Union insisted Mr Irving was not being invited to express his views about the Holocaust.

The only reason the debate would be cancelled was if police warned there was a "substantial risk" to public safety, and they had given no such advice, he added.

Of the AUT's protest, the spokesman said:

"We are somewhat surprised because we have not been contacted by anyone from that organisation.

"If they were so concerned, why did they not take the opportunity to contact us - we would have been more than happy to explain our reasoning."

Mr Irving said: "To judge by his name, Mr Triesman is Jewish.[*] That being so, I can only say that this is another sign that the Jewish community have become the traditional enemies of free speech.

"Everywhere around the world, they are at the forefront of a campaign to silence me.

"I have always been vigorously in favour of free speech."

Mr Irving was to have been opposed in the debate by Richard Rampton QC, the man who successfully defended Ms Lipstadt in the libel case.

However, since Mr Irving is set to appeal against the verdict, he withdrew because he continues to be her representative, according to the Oxford Union spokesman.

Political commitments allowing, Mr Rampton will be replaced by shadow attorney-general Edward Garnier QC, who will be debating alongside John Sentamu, the Bishop of Stepney.

Related items on this website:

 Far-right historian at centre of debate storm
 Irving visit to union triggers boycott threat
 Academics threaten to boycott Oxford over Irving speech
[Oxford Union debate update, Monday]

[* Website note: In fact the Press Association first informed Mr Irving that Triesman is Jewish].

The above news item is reproduced without editing other than typographical
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