PLANS to bring in controversial, historian David Irving to National University Ireland, Galway (NUIG) for a debate on his work and beliefs had been postponed until September 2009. The debate, which is being organised by NUIG Literary and Debating Society (L&D), was originally scheduled for Thursday,19th March but will now be held on September 2009.
L&D Auditor, Dan Colley, said that the reason for the postponement was due to lack of qualified historians to debate against Mr Irving on the original date. “It was quite difficult to find someone who’d speak against David Irving although there are several who were enthusiastic and supported this debate,” said Mr Colley. “None were available for the March 19th date so we moved it back until September.”
Mr Colley stated that although the decision to postpone was not due to students protesting against Mr Irving’s arrival, it was an issue that the society acknowledged and were preparing for.
“There are people who are trying to physically obstruct him but we’re taking all security measures possible to ensure that doesn’t happen,” explained Mr Colley. “We have had problems with many of the same people in the past. They tried to stop Betrie Ahern on campus and they were successful. In truth, we weren’t prepared for the opposition to Bertie Ahern but obviously security is an important concern concerning this [guest].”
As part of their security measures, students and staff were required to sign up and give their personal details in order to attend the event. Mr Colley commented that all security measures would be taken to ensure that the debate proceeds smoothly.
The society had agreed to bring Mr Irving into the university by having a secret ballot in January. Explaining the decision to invite Mr Irving, Mr Colley stated that “there was a discussion on freedom of speech and a discussion on whether the society should be able to invite him, whether it was a platform we were offering to him and our members said yes [to inviting him].”
David Irving is a historian who specialised in the military history of World War II and has sparked controversy over his sympathy for the Third Reich and his involvement in the holocaust denial movement. He was arrested in Austria in 2006 for denying the Holocaust which is against the law in that country and he served a prison sentence from February to December 2006.