Tuesday 18 June 2019

‘Punch drunk’ Katie Taylor article sparks outrage

Katie Taylor's triumph over Britain's Natasha Jonas
Katie Taylor's triumph over Britain's Natasha Jonas
Ireland supporters cheer on Katie Taylor

Brendan Farrelly

AUSTRALIAN newspaper group Fairfax Media was forced into an embarrassing apology after an article about Katie Taylor's triumph over Britain's Natasha Jonas in the Olympic boxing ring was branded as "lazy stereotyping" of the Irish.





The article hit the websites of 'The Age', the 'Brisbane Times' and the 'Sydney Morning Herald' yesterday, with the headline: "Punch Drunk: Ireland intoxicated as Taylor swings towards victory boxing gold."



“For centuries, Guinness and whiskey have sent the Irish off their heads. Now all it takes is a petite 26-year-old from Wicklow,” the opening paragraph said.



“Dark-haired, deep-eyed and engaging, Taylor is not what you’d expect in a fighting Irishwoman, nor is she surrounded by people who’d prefer a punch to a potato.”



The Irish Ambassador to Australia, Noel White, quickly fired off a letter of complaint to Fairfax Media which resulted in the article being amended and the headline changed.



Ambassador White wrote: "The article by Peter Hanlon in today's on-line editions of Fairfax publications is a welcome celebration of the achievements of Irish boxer Katie Taylor and a timely reflection of the pride that Irish people have taken for some time in her domination of the boxing ring.



"All the more disappointing then that the piece should lapse into lazy stereotyping. References to intoxication and to named drinks are inappropriate and beneath the standard that one expects of Fairfax Media."



Peter Hanlon, the journalist who wrote the piece, told the 'Irish Echo' newspaper in Sydney that he was "deeply sorry".



"I can only apologise and say that I abhor racism. The references in the story's introduction, and further down to Katie's closest supporters, were poorly chosen; I wish I had my time over," he added.



The amended article ran with the headline: “Irish eyeing gold as Taylor swings into action”.



It carried an Editor's note of apology and ran the Amnbassador’s letter in full:



: Dear Sir



The article by Peter Hanlon in today’s on-line editions of Fairfax publications (“Punch drunk: Ireland intoxicated as Taylor swings towards victory boxing gold”) is a welcome celebration of the achievements of Irish boxer Katie Taylor and a timely reflection of the pride that Irish people have taken for some time in her domination of the boxing ring. All the more disappointing then that the piece should lapse into lazy stereotyping. References to intoxication and to named drinks are inappropriate and beneath the standard that one expects of Fairfax Media. Irish people, much like Australians, take tremendous pride in their sporting heroes. Over the coming days, as Katie pursues her dream of Olympic glory, Irish communities at home, in Australia and around the world will be cheering her on. It is to be hoped that reporting on her performance will be free of the kind of commentary which causes unnecessary and unjustifiable upset.



Yours faithfully



Noel White



Ambassador of Ireland to Australia





Another article published in USA Today also sparked criticism.



“Back home on the emerald-green isle, pints of Guinness flowed freely, perhaps enough to replenish the Irish Sea. The "punters'' inside betting parlors wagered pounds as if they were bits of candy,” wrote the lead sports columnist for USA Today Jon Saraceno.



“It is not hyperbole to suggest that, when Taylor entered the ring, the weight of a prideful, scuffling nation rested on her muscular shoulders.”

Irish Independent

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