around the world, they are at
the forefront of a campaign to
David Irving to the
London, Friday, May 4, 2001
May 4, 2001, Friday
THREAT TO OXFORD UNION OVER IRVING
A LEADING lecturer
today threatened to campaign for a boycott
of one of Britain's most famous academic
institutions for inviting
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
Of the AUT's protest, the spokesman
"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
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
"Everywhere around the world, they are
at the forefront of a campaign to silence
"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
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
Related items on this website:
historian at centre of debate
visit to union triggers boycott
threaten to boycott Oxford over Irving
Union debate update,
[* Website note: In fact the
Press Association first informed Mr
Irving that Triesman is