Writer's anti-Irish column branded racist
POLICE in Britain are investigating a complaint that an article in the Guardian newspaper by columnist Julie Burchill expressed anti-Irish sentiment to such an extent it contravened the Race Relations Act.
The outspoken columnist, whose reputation rests on voicing views designed to provoke, aired her opinion of Irish society with special reference to the Catholic Church - prompting John Twomey, a social worker at the London Irish centre, to complain to police that the article had contravened the Race Relations Act.
Referring to the St Patrick's Day parade, Burchill questioned the money being spent by London mayor Ken Livingstone, suggesting it was to "celebrate almost compulsory child molestation by the national church, total discrimination against women who wish to be priests, aiding and abetting Hitler in his hour of need and outlawing abortion and divorce."
The columnist went on to describe Ireland's flag as "the Hitler-licking, altar boy molesting, abortion banning Irish Tricolour."
It's reported in Britain that the Guardian is hoping the Crown Prosecution Service will decide not to proceed with any action on the basis that the article in the paper's magazine a month ago was general comment and personal opinion.
The Press Complaints commission is understood to have received three complaints but decided that because the writer did not name a specific person, the article falls into the category of journalistic comment. A spokesman said its view was that "editors and journalists must be free to pass comment. If we started saying you can't say anything at all about the Irish it would get a bit silly."
But Mr Twomey argues the article was "so grossly insulting" it strayed into criminality. The Daily Telegraph says he felt Ms Burchill was targeting Irish people rather than just the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Burchill intends to fight the case "every step of the way," it says, adding that she accuses Mr Twomey of using the Act to stifle all criticism of the Church.