THE head of a UK group that promotes tolerance and cohesion between ethnic and religious communities has robustly defended his open invitation to post Irish jokes on his blog.
Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said that he had not read any of the 70-plus entries about the Irish posted on the blog, many of which were crass, racially stereotypical or both. One blogger described it as "an orgy of Irish-bashing jokes".
Mr Murray had issued the invitation through his 'Daily Telegraph' blog after writing about a charge of racism brought against a British councillor by a union representative with Irish ancestry.
The charge -- which related to a Paddy Irishman joke -- resulted in compensation being paid to the union rep.
"Anyone can make any joke that they want, they don't need me to invite them to do so," Mr Murray told the Irish Independent. "But I think if you want to remind people of the idiocy of a situation where somebody is able to make thousands of pounds by claiming they are offended by a pretty cruddy joke then we're in real trouble.
"If people honestly think that in a thriving democratic society you can police peoples' humour when it is not illegal then you are going to be in real trouble.
"There are already laws in this country against incitement. They are very clear laws, I speak about them every day of my life. The law has to step in to stop people calling for murder. It is not something that the law does very often as we know from various Islamist extremist groups.
"But the idea that you can police jokes or humour which is not calling for anyone to be killed but is simply humour, is simply a nonsense. The law cannot legislate about humour. It cannot legislate about whether you find an Irishman joke funny or I find it funny."
Mr Murray said that he had not read the jokes posted to his blog by others, but was confident that the 'Telegraph' would remove any that were offensive and that there are guidelines in place. However, the blog has become the subject of heated debate amongst the Irish community in London, many of whom remember the "No Blacks, No Irish" signs in various boarding houses in the 1970s and 1980s.
A number of the posts questioned whether Mr Murray would invite jokes about Pakistanis or Israelis.
With a spokesperson for the Irish Embassy in London unavailable, the Department of Foreign Affairs last night dismissed Mr Murray's efforts to make his point.
"Contrary to his intention, the response to Mr Murray's blog illustrates just why there are protections in place against abusive racial stereotyping," a spokesman said.
Mr Murray has been head of the Centre for Social Cohesion since 2007.
According to its website, it was founded "to promote human rights, tolerance and greater cohesion among the UK's ethnic and religious communities and within wider British society".