BNP leader Nick Griffin to speak at Phil debate on immigration

 

The leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, has been invited to speak at Trinity College. The invitation was extended by college debating society, The Philosophical Society, to a debate entitled “This House Believes Immigration Has Gone Too Far” on October 20.

The British National Party (BNP) is a far-right, nationalist political party formed in the early 1980s from a splinter group of the National Front. The BNP had, until a successful legal challenge in 2010, restricted membership to “indigenous British” people, mirroring the “white-only” policy of its parent organisation the National Front.

The BNP’s most prominent policies relate to race and immigration issues. They propose “firm but voluntary incentives for immigrants and their descendants to return home” and oppose many of Britain’s anti-discrimination laws.

The party website contextualises support for these policies with the statement that “the indigenous British people will become an ethnic minority in our own country well within sixty years”. The latest census information from 2009 shows that the number of ‘White British’ people living in England is 82.8%. Wales’ 2009 statistic was 93% while Scotland and Northern Ireland were at 95.5% and 99.2% respectively in 2001.

Nick Griffin MEP has been chairman of the BNP since 1999, having previously served as a political worker for the National Front. He has regularly contested elections for the BNP and, in 2009, was elected as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for North West England. He stood unsuccessfully for election to the House of Commons in 2010, finishing third in London’s Barking constituency. Following the election he announced that he would stand down as leader of the party by 2013.

BNP had its most successful year electorally in 2009, with the party winning its first council seats and adding Andrew Brons’ seat in the Yorkshire and the Humber constituency to Griffin’s in the European Parliament. In the 2010 general election the BNP failed to win any seats, securing 1.9% of the vote. This was widely considered a disappointing result for the party, on the back of their 2009 performance, but was nonetheless their best performance in a general election. The BNP describe themselves as “Britain’s fastest growing political party”, but have recently had to compete for influence on the far-right with the newly-prominent English Defence League (EDL).

Nick Griffin was convicted in 1998 of distributing material likely to incite racial hated. He was acquitted in 2005 of a separate charge for the same offence. He once described the Holocaust as a “Holohoax”, adding “I am well aware that the orthodox opinion is that six million Jews were gassed and cremated and turned into lampshades. Orthodox opinion also once held that the world is flat.” He also said on ITV’s Cook Report programme in 1997 that the death of Jewish people in Nazi gas chambers was “nonsense” and “a total lie”.

Nick Griffin has also drawn criticism for his statements about gay people. Writing about the bombing of the Albert Duncan, a gay pub in London’s Soho, by a former BNP member in 1999 he said, “The TV footage of dozens of ‘gay’ demonstrators flaunting their perversions in front of the world’s journalists showed just why so many ordinary people find these creatures so repulsive.” Former BNP Director of Publicity Mark Collett described gay people as “AIDS monkeys” and said that AIDS was “a friendly disease because blacks, drug users and gays have it.” He was suspended from the party in 2010 for threats against Nick Griffin unrelated to these comments.

Griffin’s views on race have regularly been labelled “racist” by British human rights groups. In relation to the idea of “black Britons” he said, “we affirm that non-Whites have no place here at all and will not rest until every last one has left our land.”

The BNP has, however, traditionally included the Irish among its classification of the “indigenous British”. Speaking to the BBC in May of last year Mr. Griffin said, “We are certainly not going to shut the doors to the Irish, because the Irish, as far as we are concerned, are part of Britain and fully entitled to come here.” He has also suggested that the Republic of Ireland be invited to rejoin a union with Great Britain. Speaking to The University Times, BNP media spokesman Simon Darby said that the party did not want “British rule in Ireland” and that any union would be “like an emasculated form of the European Union, nothing more.”

The news of his invitation to Trinity has been greeted with dismay by anti-racism organisations in Ireland. Garrett Mullan, co-ordinator of ‘Give Racism the Red Card’, said that it lends “credibility” to their ideas. “We are opposed to giving them a platform. They are a racist party with their roots in far-right fascism and they have nothing to offer. This is a conflation of racism and immigration. It sets up immigration as a racist issue. The BNP use the immigration issue to target immigrants and stoke up racism. Immigration should be taken seriously and debated openly, not used as a platform for a racist party. Ireland will undoubtedly be more vulnerable to the BNP’s simple, racist ideas during the current economic crisis.”

A Facebook page called ”No Platform For Nazi Nick Griffin in Dublin” had received 380 likes at the time of writing. It published on its wall an open letter to The University Philosophical Society by a group called ‘Red Writers’ condemning the invitation of Griffin. “There’s plenty of people with important things to say whose perspectives we’re ignoring because we’re too busy focusing on the fringe lunatic, not least those for whom racism is a daily lived-reality rather than an opportunity for a publicity stunt”.

Simon Darby, urged on his blog for the students of Dublin to “hold their nerve” against the “inevitable, liberal fascist onslaught against free speech” which would result from Mr. Griffin’s invitation. Speaking to The University Times Mr Darby said that 2007’s Oxford Union debate was the only time that an invitation of this sort from a university had led to an actual debate. “It usually gets disrupted by liberal Islamofascists and the far-left,” he said, “but we are hopeful that this won’t be the case in Dublin.” He said that this disruption usually ranged from “under-the-counter” activism to “physical pressure”.

This is not the first time a far-right leader’s invitation to Trinity has caused controversy. In 1988 British historian and convicted Holocaust denier David Irving was invited to speak by the University Philosophical Society. Trinity College security refused to cover the event and the chaotic scenes which followed Mr. Irving’s arrival in Trinity, when students stormed the building and barricaded doors, forced the speech to be moved to a nearby hotel.

At the time of writing The University Philosophical Society have yet to issue a statement on Nick Griffin’s invitation or respond to questions from this paper.

The University Times will have full coverage of Nick Griffin’s visit in our Freshers’ week edition, out next Tuesday September 20.

From The University Times . 16.09.11. Article by Rónán Burtenshaw

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